Hobbs cuts Gaynor’s lead in sec­re­tary race

The Arizona Republic - - Business - Dustin Gar­diner HAND­OUT PHO­TOS; IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY LAU­REN AGUIRRE/THE REPUB­LIC

The race for Ari­zona sec­re­tary of state tight­ened Thurs­day, af­ter Mari­copa County re­leased the re­sults of about 130,000 pre­vi­ously un­counted bal­lots.

Repub­li­can busi­ness­man Steve Gaynor has held a lead over Demo­crat Katie Hobbs since Tues­day, but the lead dropped by more than half with the new Mari­copa County bal­lots and ad­di­tional bal­lots from Pima County.

He was up by about 44,000 votes ear­lier Thurs­day, but Hobbs cut that to about 20,500. There are about 460,000 un­counted bal­lots, ac­cord­ing to an anal­y­sis by The Ari­zona Repub­lic. About 350,000 of those are in Mari­copa County.

The As­so­ci­ated Press called the race for Gaynor on Tues­day night, but he hasn’t de­clared vic­tory out­right.

“It’s a close race,” Gaynor told sup­port­ers on Tues­day. “We’re go­ing to fight to the end, and hope­fully, when the race is called, we’ll be vic­to­ri­ous.”

Hobbs’ cam­paign crit­i­cized the As­so­ci­ated Press for the pro­jec­tion given the thin mar­gin and hun­dreds of thou­sands of un­counted bal­lots.

In Ari­zona, the sec­re­tary of state is the No. 2 statewide-elected of­fi­cial, next in line to suc­ceed the gover­nor if he or she leaves of­fice early. That has hap­pened four times since the late 1970s.

The sec­re­tary of state’s pri­mary duty is man­ag­ing the statewide elec­tions sys­tem, which has faced a string of prob­lems in re­cent years.

Gaynor has said his busi­ness ex­pe­ri­ence has pre­pared him for the job, call­ing the Sec­re­tary of State’s Of­fice a “clas­sic turn­around.” He owns a print­ing plant in Cal­i­for­nia and spent more than $2.3 mil­lion of his own for­tune in the race.

Dur­ing the cam­paign, Gaynor talked lit­tle about bal­lot ac­cess. He in­stead fo­cused on his con­cerns about hy­po­thet­i­cal fraud and un­sub­stan­ti­ated al­le­ga­tions that unau­tho­rized im­mi­grants could be vot­ing.

Sub­stan­ti­ated cases of voter fraud are rare. Since 2008, about 20 peo­ple have been con­victed in Ari­zona for vot­ing twice in an elec­tion — a pe­riod that’s seen more than 16 mil­lion votes cast, ac­cord­ing to data from the state.

If Gaynor’s lead holds, it would be a ma­jor blow to Democrats who spent more than $2 mil­lion to try to get Hobbs elected. Many viewed the sec­re­tary of state’s race as their best chance for a ma­jor statewide win.

Dur­ing the cam­paign, Hobbs and Gaynor reg­u­larly traded barbs over who has the right ex­pe­ri­ence to man­age elec­tions.

Hobbs, the mi­nor­ity leader in the Ari­zona Se­nate, fo­cused her cam­paign on pro­pos­als to im­prove vot­ing ac­cess. She said the state needs to re­move bar­ri­ers that can make it hard for mi­nori­ties, se­niors and low­in­come peo­ple to vote.

“I think ev­ery Amer­i­can should want ev­ery Amer­i­can to be able to vote,” Hobbs said dur­ing the cam­paign.

Gaynor de­feated in­cum­bent Sec­re­tary of State Michele Rea­gan in the GOP pri­mary, a race that was de­fined by his at­tacks on her mis­steps ad­min­is­ter­ing elec­tions.

On Elec­tion Day, Rea­gan said she looked for­ward to work­ing with who­ever wins the race.

“I want to get in who­ever wins early, and maybe even have them to our hol­i­day party,” she said dur­ing an in­ter­view on KTAR. “I wish some­one would have done that for me. I am go­ing to walk out of there with my head held high.”

Can­di­dates for sec­re­tary of state are Demo­crat Katie Hobbs, left, and Repub­li­can Steve Gaynor.

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