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The suspense and prognosticating surrounding Arizona's too-close-to-call governor's race continued Friday as Democratic nominee Katie Hobbs maintained a slim but growing lead over her Republican opponent Kari Lake.
Vote counting will continue for days, and officials in the state's largest county revised their own estimate for how long it would take to finish to get final results. Those are expected next week.
When results were updated Friday evening, adding another about 74,000 ballots from Maricopa County, Hobbs widened her advantage, though the race was still razor-thin with only 31,000 votes separating the candidates and no winner declaring victory.
But in the interim, with national eyes on Arizona where false claims of election fraud have endured since 2020, the candidates echoed familiar sentiments that dominated their time on the campaign trail.
Lake has used the counting period, which is normal in Arizona, to make national news appearances where she raised suspicion about the count and beat up on fellow Republican officials, whom she accused of purposefully slow-walking the results.
Meanwhile, Hobbs, the secretary of state, urged patience and expressed confidence in the system.
"Despite what my election-denying opponent is trying to spin, the pattern and cadence of incoming votes are exactly what we expected," Hobbs wrote on social media. "In fact, they mirror what our state has seen in recent elections. We must remain patient and let our election officials do their jobs."
Hobbs' 2018 race for the state's elections chief wasn't decided for 10 days after the election, as one example.
As Friday dawned, more than 500,000 ballots were yet to be counted across the state, with about 320,000 of those in Maricopa County, the state's most populous county that includes Phoenix. County officials were expected to update their results each evening.
In Maricopa County, officials on Friday started counting more than 290,000 ballots that were dropped off on Election Day. Those votes ultimately will decide the toss-up race. They have to undergo a process including signature verification that can add to the total time of the count. County officials projected they would release results from about 60,000 ballots each day.
If 2020 trends hold, those dropped-off ballots would favor Republicans, but in a battleground state that has tinged purple, nothing is certain. Previously, those ballots favored Democrats, propelling statewide candidates including Hobbs to victory.
Lake needs a repeat of 2020 to have her claims of victory prove true.
Lake: County 'slow rolling' results
The former television news anchor, who rose to prominence by adhering to former President Donald Trump's false claims of widespread election fraud in 2020, hasn't alleged fraud in Tuesday's election. She has decried issues from tabulation machine errors and extrapolated those into a broader theory that the vote count is taking too long. She has pledged to call a special session of the Legislature, if she is elected, to reform elections.
Harmeet Dhillon, a prominent GOP lawyer from California who worked for Trump and was brought on by the Lake campaign last month, alleged in a Fox News appearance there was "petty little game playing by some Arizona county officials."
And in an interview with conservative influencer Charlie Kirk, founder of Turning Point USA, which has shifted Arizona GOP politics to the right, Lake named Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer and Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Gates specifically for "trying to mess with our elections here."
"They are controlling the narrative of election night here in this great country, and withholding and slow rolling results," Lake said, alleging that such actions only made it appear Hobbs, the Democrat, was in the lead. "I think it's despicable. Get the job done, guys."
Gates had sharp words for Lake at a news conference on Thursday afternoon, and noted the county counts ballots under a "first in, first out" method, meaning ballots dropped off Tuesday will come last.
"As far as the statement that we're slow rolling, again, I think maybe Kari Lake is saying that because she hasn't followed elections as much as frankly I have the last 20 years," he said. Gates works as a Republican lawyer, including on election issues, and was elected to the Phoenix City Council before the county Board of Supervisors, which among other duties handles ballot tabulation and day-of voting operations.
Speaking at the county's vote tabulation center, Gates said: "It is offensive for Kari Lake to say that these people behind me are slow rolling it when they're working 14 to 18 hours. So I really hope this is the end of that now. We can be patient and respect the results when they come out."
Arizona remains hotbed of false claims
To be sure, there were high-profile problems with Tuesday's election in Maricopa County. At about 30% of voting locations, on-site ballot counting machines weren't working initially, meaning voters had to leave their paper ballots in a secure box instead.
But Arizona has remained ground zero in some Republicans' quest to cast doubt on elections, including by Trump himself, despite an extended ballot review of 2020 that proved Joe Biden's win.
That environment also has prompted complaints of aggressive behavior at ballot drop boxes in Phoenix and Mesa as Arizonans voted early, including concerns people were filming voters and taking photographs of their license plates.
Hobbs' campaign said Lake has furthered election disinformation leading to such problems.
"Kari Lake and her campaign have never stopped stoking violence and disinformation in this election," Hobbs' spokesperson Sarah Robinson said Thursday. "The voters of Arizona deserve to have their voices heard, and Kari Lake's campaign of lies won't stop that."
Lake and her campaign did not respond to a request for comment for this article.
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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Arizona governor race: Hobbs' lead grows in Maricopa County results