Hobbs wins Arizona governor’s race, flipping state for Dems

PHOENIX (AP) – Democrat Katie Hobbs was elected governor of Arizona on Monday, defeating a Donald Trump ally who falsely claimed the 2020 election was rigged and refused to say he would accept the results of his race this year.

Hobbs, who is Arizona’s secretary of state, rose to prominence as a staunch defender of the legitimacy of the last election and warned that her Republican challenger, former TV news anchor Kari Lake, would be an agent of chaos. Hobbs’ victory adds further evidence that Trump is weighing on his allies in a crucial battleground state as the former president prepares to announce a 2024 presidential bid.

He will succeed Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, who was barred by term limit laws from running again. She is the first Democrat to be elected governor of Arizona since Janet Napolitano in 2006.

“To the Arizonans who didn’t vote for me, I will work just as hard for you, because even in this divisive time, I believe there is so much more that connects us,” Hobbs said in a statement declaring the victory . “It wasn’t just about an election, it was about moving this state forward and meeting the challenges of our generation.”

Lake tweeted after the call: “Arizonians know BS when they see it.”

The Associated Press called the governor’s race for Hobbs after the last round of voting gave him a large enough lead that the AP determined he would not relinquish it. The AP concluded that while Lake had been posting increasingly large margins in Maricopa County vote updates, he was not gaining a large enough share to overtake Hobbs and was running out of votes remaining.

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The counting of votes had been going on for days from Tuesday’s election as officials continued to count massive amounts of late-arriving ballots.

A former Republican stronghold where Democrats made gains during the Trump era, Arizona has been central to efforts by Trump and his allies to cast doubt on Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential victory with false claims of fraud. This year, many Trump-backed candidates failed in the general election in battleground states, although his choice in the race for governor of Nevada, Republican Joe Lombardodefeated a Democrat incumbent.

Before entering politics, Hobbs was a social worker working with homeless youth and an executive with a large domestic violence shelter in the Phoenix area. She was elected to the state Legislature in 2010, serving one term in the House and three terms in the Senate, rising to minority leader.

Hobbs won by a narrow margin in 2018 as secretary of state and was put at the center of a political firestorm as Arizona became the centerpiece of efforts by Trump and his allies to overturn the results of the 2020 election he lost. He appeared constantly on cable news defending the integrity of the vote count.

The attention allowed him to raise millions of dollars and raise his profile. When he announced his campaign for governor, other prominent Democrats declined to run, and Hobbs comfortably won his primary.

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He campaigned cautiously, largely limiting himself to scripted and choreographed public appearances. She refused to engage in a debate with Lake, arguing that Lake would make a show of spouting conspiracy theories and making false accusations.

Instead, he bet voters would push back against Lake, who picked verbal fights with reporters while the cameras were rolling and struck a combative tone toward Democrats and even establishment Republicans who have long dominated the state government.

Polls before the election showed the race tied, but Hobbs’ victory still came as a surprise to many Democrats who feared his shyness would turn off voters. He beat expectations in Maricopa and Pima counties, the Phoenix and Tucson metro areas where the vast majority of Arizona voters live. He also spent considerable time in rural areas, seeking to minimize his losses in regions that traditionally support Republicans.

Lake is well known across much of the state after anchoring the evening news in Phoenix for more than two decades. He came out as a fierce critic of the mainstream media, which he said is unfair to Republicans. He won Trump’s admiration for his steadfast commitment to questioning the results of the 2020 election, a position he never wavered from even after winning the Republican primary.

He baselessly accused election officials of slowing down vote counts this year and prioritizing Democratic ballots as he narrowly trailed Hobbs in the days after the election.

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Lake has cited a problem with printers about a third of polling places in Maricopa County had on-site tabulators reject some ballots. Election officials told voters to put their ballots in a separate box to be counted later, but Republican leaders told their supporters to ignore the instruction and the lines in some places backed up.

The problem affected about 7% of the ballots cast in person on election day and about 1% of the total cast in the county.

Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone said he increased security around the polling place Monday in anticipation of the race calling and emotions running high, though he said there was no specific threat. Protesters have gathered outside the building for several days but have remained calm, he said.

“I think we’re getting close to the end of the game, so I want to make sure we’re ready,” Penzone told reporters at a news conference hours before the race was called.

The sheriff’s office was caught off guard two years ago when armed and angry protesters descended on the elections building. in downtown Phoenix after Fox News and AP called Arizona for Bidenwhich marks the first time a Democrat has won the state in more than two decades.

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Learn more about the issues and factors at play in the midterms at https://apnews.com/hub/explaining-the-elections. And follow AP’s election coverage of the 2022 elections at https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections.

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