With the nation's eyes on the Arizona governor's race, county officials continued the vote count on Monday that solidified Democratic candidate Katie Hobbs’ lead, with an end in sight.
Hobbs maintained the lead over GOP challenger Kari Lake with an about 20,000 vote advantage, or under 1 percentage point.
Though Lake narrowed the gap between the two on Monday, the shrinking number of votes left to count makes Lake's path to surpass Hobbs more difficult. Lake would have to win a larger share of the remaining early ballots than she has to date, making her path to victory akin to a sprint up Humphreys Peak.
Hobbs has held the lead since partial results were first reported on Nov. 8. But what was once a 14-point gap has shrunk to an intensely close margin as Lake fared better among people who voted in person or dropped off ballots on Election Day.
As votes were added, sometimes just over 1,000 at a time, the gap remained razor-thin, reflecting the toss-up race expected by political observers.
Hobbs' campaign manager expressed confidence about how the race was trending Sunday, saying Hobbs was "the unequivocal favorite to become the next governor of Arizona." Lake did not comment publicly.
Much of Monday's attention was focused on reports from Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, and Pima County, which includes Tucson. The state's two most populous counties had the most ballots outstanding, with over 94,000 in Maricopa and 38,000 in Pima. Lake needed to win over 58% of ballots remaining statewide.
When Maricopa County updated its results on Monday evening, Lake won 56.8%.
Almost 27,000 ballots were left to be counted by Arizona's other counties. Over 10,000 of those were in Pinal County and 8,000 were in Cochise County, in southeast Arizona along the border with Mexico. Lake has won both counties, among ballots cast so far, by over 58%.
Election staffers planned to work long days Monday — after a weekend of work — to count those large chunks of ballots. Typically, the counties have reported results each evening.
Republican ticket losing with voters
Like races across the country this year, the battle to become Arizona's 24th governor saw Lake, the Republican, appealing to Arizonans as a fighter who would crack down at the state's southern border with Mexico and shore up elections. Lake, a former television news anchor, has said she would not have certified the 2020 result in Arizona and has continued to raise questions about normal election operations.
Hobbs, the Democrat and Arizona's secretary of state, billed herself as a protector of democracy after she certified Joe Biden's 2020 win in the state. She pledged to restore abortion rights after the U.S. Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade, pointing to her record in the state Legislature, where she advocated for women's rights and opposed restrictive abortion laws ultimately pushed through by the Republican majority.
The contest to replace Republican Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, who is term limited and cannot run again, is not the only nail-biter left among Arizona's statewide offices but is the most closely watched after two other races were called late Friday.
The Associated Press projected incumbent U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., won reelection over Blake Masters, who hitched his wagon to Lake's, frequently campaigning alongside her though he was ultimately unable to turn her celebrity into support.
Likewise Adrian Fontes, the Democratic former Maricopa County recorder, was projected to defeat Mark Finchem, a state lawmaker who espoused false claims about the 2020 election and was at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in the race for secretary of state.
In other races on the ticket, Democrat Kris Mayes led her opponent Abraham Hamadeh in the race for attorney general and Democrat Kathy Hoffman had a slim lead in her race seeking a second term as state schools superintendent over GOP challenger Tom Horne. Both of those races have seen the leaders flip-flop as results are counted and were too close to call Sunday.
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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Arizona governor's race: Katie Hobbs holds lead over Kari Lake