The Daily Agenda: Long week incoming
The printer problems heard 'round the world ... A rundown of the top races ... And read the tweets.
We made it though the election! Please reward us with $84 of your hard-earned money.
The eyes of the world were on Maricopa County, and, well, it could’ve gone better.
As soon as polls opened yesterday, some voters weren’t able to properly feed their ballots into tabulators. Over the course of half the day, the county figured out that its printers weren’t properly printing timing marks — the marks around the outside of the ballot used to orient it on a scanner — so tabulators weren’t reading them.
The issue affected more than 20% of polling locations. Voters said they tried multiple times to feed their ballots, sometimes going to multiple vote centers to try. They were told to put their ballot into a slot on the ballot receptacle marked with a number 3 (dubbed “Door No. 3,” a name in need of a rebrand), wait for the machines to work again or go to another site.
By late afternoon, most sites that had problems were back in action. The county will do a “deep dive” to figure out what went wrong, Supervisors chairman Bill Gates said. And he stressed that there’s no indication voters were disenfranchised.
“My understanding is that everyone who showed up with ID had the opportunity to vote,” he said. “The issue that we had here was that certain people were unable to have their ballots run through the tabulator.”
But the damage was done, at least for those who’ve made election denialism a hallmark of their political lives. The AZGOP seized on the moment. The Republican National Committee unsuccessfully sued over the issue, trying to keep the polls open until 10 p.m. Former President Donald Trump chimed in.
The county prepared for potential unrest by fencing off the parking lot surrounding the tabulation center in Phoenix on Tuesday night, where a heavy Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office presence sought to deter any rowdy protesters.
AZGOP chair Kelli Ward and her fan club called on Gates and Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer to resign. (It’s important to note: Day-of in-person voting does not fall under the recorder’s duties.)
There are tons of remaining questions about what went wrong. We expect the county to investigate thoroughly and transparently share what they learn, then make sure similar errors don’t happen again. There are no signs of nefariousness or ill intent here.
But that won’t stop the conspiracies if Republicans ultimately lose statewide.
Democrats held strong early leads, and they still have a fighting chance in most statewide offices. And while races narrowed throughout the night as counties counted in-person votes cast at the polling places, if they don’t flip, you can expect two more years of audits, recounts, lawsuits and general chaos. Republicans have shown they’re no good at losing, and we don’t expect Kari Lake and crew to go quietly, if they ultimately lose.
Around 10 p.m., Lake took the stage to declare future victory.
“We are going to win this. We are going to win this,” she said, warning the propagandists in the media not to say otherwise. “When we win, and I think it will be within hours, we will declare victory.”
But her victory did not come within hours, as she predicted, though she sliced through Katie Hobbs’ lead after midnight. At her election night party, the balloons hanging from the rafters that were meant to drop down to mark her victory never dropped. As one partygoer put it, people just slowly dwindled away from the AZGOP election night party amid the bruising early election night results, but “no one (was) brave enough to call it a night.”
We’ll hold off on making any bold predictions about where this will all land. But we’re confident it’ll take a few more days before we know who will be our next statewide elected leaders.
Buckle up, readers, we’re in for a long week.
The other news is the only news: The only big news is the election. Most races are still outstanding. Democrats were mostly up by wide margins early Tuesday night, as they needed to be to keep their leads as day-of votes and late drop-offs get tallied. And while those margins shrunk significantly in the late night and early morning hours, the initial leads were large enough to keep Democrats in the game. As expected, we have a full slate of nail-biters this year, and it’ll be a few days until we know who will maintain a lead.
Here’s where key races stand as of a little after 2 a.m. on Wednesday, when Maricopa County uploaded its last batch of results for the night. To get the most up-to-date numbers, check out the state’s website here. For local races, check the Maricopa County website here or your local county websites. There’s also a handy website to tell you how many votes are left to be tallied.
Before we get into it, do we need to tell y’all once again that these results will change?
No, you’re savvy readers. You know that.
With a few exceptions (including the race for Corporation Commission), Democrats have the lead in statewide races by significant, but certainly not insurmountable, margins.
Governor: Dem candidate Katie Hobbs held a 2-percentage-point lead over GOP contender Kari Lake, down from more than 10 percentage points early Tuesday night.
Secretary of state: Democrat Adrian Fontes had the largest lead of the statewide candidates, at about 7 points above Republican candidate Mark Finchem.
Attorney general: Kris Mayes, the Democrat, led the race by a mere 2 percentage points over GOP candidate Abe Hamadeh.
Superintendent of public instruction: Kathy Hoffman, the Democratic incumbent, was up by less than 1 percentage point over GOP former Superintendent Tom Horne.
Treasurer: Republican incumbent Kimberly Yee was the only Republican in a contested statewide race who was never really behind. By the end of the night, she led Democrat Martín Quezada by about 10 percentage points.
Corporation Commission: For the two open seats, Republicans Kevin Thompson and Nick Myers jumped ahead of Democrat Sandra Kennedy narrowly and Lauren Kuby by a wider margin as vote counting continued into the early morning hours.
Mine inspector: The race for state mine inspector was uncontested, so we feel comfortable boldly predicting the appointed mine inspector Paul Marsh wins this one by about 100%.
Arizona had some of the most closely watched (and expensive) federal campaigns. So far, one of our Democratic representatives in Congress appears to be finished, while a vulnerable Republican is barely hanging on.
U.S. Senate: Former astronaut and current U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly maintained a 7-percentage-point advantage over Republican newcomer Blake Masters.
CD1: Newcomer Jevin Hodge, a Democrat, held a razor-thin lead over longtime Republican U.S. Rep. David Schweikert after being up significantly earlier in the night.
CD2: Republican Eli Crane led Democratic U.S. Rep. Tom O’Halleran, one of the most vulnerable incumbents in Congress, by a thin margin that will likely increase for Crane.
CD4: Greg Stanton, a Democratic representative, held a wide margin of more than 10 percentage points over Republican Kelly Cooper.
CD6: In a closely watched race with no incumbent, Democratic candidate Kirsten Engel had a slim edge on Republican Juan Ciscomani by about 1 percentage point.
If Democrats’ lead in Tuesday night’s results held in every district — which it almost certainly won’t — Democrats would tie the state Senate and just barely flip the House.
LD2: Republican Rep. Steve Kaiser narrowly pulled ahead of Democratic challenger Jeanne Casteen leads as he attempts to move up to the Senate in this North Phoenix district. In the House race, Democratic Rep. Judy Schweibert has a sizable lead over her Republican competitors, Rep. Justin Wilmeth and MAGA Republican newcomer Christian Lamar, for the district’s two House seats1.
LD4: In the state Senate showdown between Democratic Sen. Christine Marsh and Republican Sen. Nancy Barto, the Democrat has the lead. And Democrat Laura Terech leads Republicans Matt Gress and Maria Syms for the Paradise Valley and Scottsdale based district’s two House seats.
LD9: Democrats hold a slight lead in this Mesa district after Republicans went full MAGA in the primary. Democrat Eva Burch leads her Republican opponent for the Senate, Robert Scantlebury, while the two Democratic nominees for the House, Lorena Austin and Seth Blattman, are ahead of their Republican opponents, Kathy Pearce and Mary Ann Mendoza, by a smaller margin.
LD13: Republican Sen. J.D. Mesnard took a late lead over his Democratic challenger, Cynthia Hans, in this Chandler-based district. On the House side, Democratic Rep. Jennifer Pawlik holds a stronger lead over the Republican challengers, Julie Willoughby and Liz Harris.
LD16: Republican Sen. T.J. Shope took the lead over his Democratic challenger Taylor Kerby as counting continued late into the night in this Pinal County district. But in the House race, Democrat Keith Seaman is the top vote-getter, leading Republican Rep. Teresa Martinez and Republican newcomer Rob Hudelson, meaning this could be a split district.
LD17: Democrat Mike Nickerson is narrowly leading far-right activist Justine Wadsack in what could potentially be a surprise upset in a Republican stronghold in Pinal County after Wadsack beat out Republican Sen. Vince Leach in the primary. And it’s not just the Senate race. In the House, Democrats Dana Allmond is narrowly leading her Republican challengers, Rachel Jones and Cory McGarr.
LD23: In this Democratic district stretching from the California border nearly to Tucson and the far West Valley, Republican Michele Pena is narrowly leading one of the two Democrats for the district’s second house seat, which would be a GOP upset in a traditionally blue district.
The wildest wild card: In the unruly write-in campaign for the West Valley’s LD22, Democrat Eva Diaz holds a commanding lead over Republican Steve Robinson, a co-founder of the We The People Alliance group that tried to recall a bunch of “RINOs” a few years back, as well as all the other write-in candidates.
The two citizen initiatives that made the ballot sailed to victory easily, while a host of legislative referrals were a mixed bag.
Let there be light: Prop 211 was an easy win, once it finally made the ballot. Voters are overwhelmingly supporting the measure to force disclosure of the original source of “dark money” in campaigns. The other slam dunk initiative was Prop 209, which attempts to ban predatory medical debt collection.
New politician just dropped?: Prop 131, which would create an office of lieutenant governor to run as a ticket with the governor (kinda like the VP), was up by about 10 percentage points.
Initiative splits: Two of the three legislative referrals to make initiatives harder, Props 129 and 132, which would limit ballot measures to a single subject and would require a 60% majority to pass tax increase initiatives, respectively, were passing (very narrowly in the case of Prop 132). The third, Prop 128, which would allow lawmakers to undo voter initiatives if a court finds any part of it unconstitutional, is failing by a wide margin.
Taxes split: Prop 130, which would allow lawmakers to provide a property tax cut for veterans with disabilities, was leading by a healthy margin, while Prop 310, which would increase the state sales tax by 1/10th of a penny to pay for rural fire departments and emergency medical transport, was trailing by about 3 percentage points.
Tuition is too damn high: Prop 308, which would allow Dreamers and other undocumented Arizona high school students to pay in-state tuition at state universities and community colleges, led by a thin margin.
The big surprise: Prop 309, the Legislature’s attempt to require voters to add additional identifying information on their mail-in ballots, was trailing by a thin margin.
One bright spot: In Maricopa County, it seems safe to declare public masturbator Randy Kaufman will lose. He’s down by nearly 30 percentage points to Democratic Rep. Kelli Butler in the race for a seat on the Maricopa County Community College Governing Board.
Next top county cop: The race to lead the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office isn’t such a slam dunk. Republican appointed incumbent Rachel Mitchell leads Democrat Julie Gunnigle by about 4 percentage points.
Giving them the boot: And in Maricopa County, three judges may be getting the boot. Superior Court Judge Stephen Hopkins, who the commission on judicial Conduct urged voters to fire, does, indeed, seem likely to get fired. So does judge Howard Sukenic, while judge Rusty Crandell is very narrowly losing. And Arizona Supreme Court Justice Bill Montgomery got surprisingly close to not being retained, though he never actually trailed in votes.
Not a county: Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez lost his re-election bid to Buu Nygren, the husband of state Rep. Jasmine Blackwater-Nygren, who had criticized Nez for not being business-friendly enough through the pandemic. Nygren’s running mate, Richelle Montoya, will be the nation’s first female vice president.
We’re keeping it simple: Here are some good tweets.
Each district elects two representatives and one senator. For simplicity’s sake, the second and third names in these House races are coming in second and third place with voters. But the second place finisher is also elected. In many House races, Democrats didn’t nominate two candidates because they went for a “single-shot” strategy, a mathematical trick that gives one candidate an advantage in a pick-two race.