Katie Hobbs keeps small lead over Kari Lake in latest results in Arizona governor's race

Katie Hobbs (left) and Kari Lake
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Update: Katie Hobbs continues her lead over Kari Lake. New results are expected Thursday night. Read the latest here.

Democratic candidate for governor Katie Hobbs kept a small lead over her Republican opponent Kari Lake as the results in one of the state's most consequential races continued to roll in Wednesday evening.

Lake has significantly shrunk Hobbs' big early advantage, which was expected by many political observers. That pattern echoed the voting trends seen in Arizona in the 2020 presidential election.

The former television news anchor, Lake, carried 70% of votes cast statewide on Election Day, collapsing what once was a 14 percentage-point Hobbs lead among early voters to less than 1 percentage point as of Wednesday night.

The margin between the candidates was razor thin, with over 600,000 ballots left to tally, according to estimates compiled by the Secretary of State's Office, meaning the counts and margins are likely to change — possibly significantly. The governor's race could see shifting margins or seesawing race leaders in coming days.

Election coverage: Live voting updates | Arizona election results

In Maricopa County on Wednesday, counting continued on ballots dropped off on Election Day and received in the immediate days before. In an update, Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Gates said about 400,000 votes remained uncounted, with most of those being ballots dropped off Tuesday.

Those ballots will need signature verification and separation from their signed affidavit envelope before they are counted and included in the results. It could be Friday before the vast majority are counted, Gates said.

Arizona's most populous county takes on outsize importance in statewide races, with conventional wisdom believing candidates don't win the state without winning Maricopa County. When the county released about 60,000 newly counted votes on Wednesday evening, Hobbs gained ground against Lake's tide of support among day of election voters.

Two years ago, Arizonans watched as the COVID-19 pandemic and President Donald Trump's crusade against voting fraud shifted typical voting patterns in the state. Early signs show those patterns have continued, and could boost Lake to victory.

"Democrats used to win Election Day, that's not the case post-2020 with Trump's narrative about fraud," GOP consultant Chuck Coughlin of HighGround in Phoenix said. "It's changed that whole dynamic so that Republicans win Election Day votes."

How remaining votes could affect races

Joe Biden opened a large lead over Trump on election night 2020, so much so that Fox News called the state for Biden, a decision that prompted controversy among conservatives who saw the projection as a mistake.

In the following days, Trump narrowed Biden's massive 200,000 vote lead to 130,000 votes, and by three days after the election it was clear Trump had fallen off the pace he needed to win as votes were added. The former president lost the state by about 10,500 votes.

Similar calculations are happening now, and if trends hold, Republican consultant Barrett Marson said GOP candidates are likely to win at least some of the statewide races that Democrats led on Wednesday.

"It was an incredible day for Republicans, and by that I mean the day-of voters," Marson said. "Unlike in past years, when most Republicans voted early, they stayed home until Tuesday and then came out in droves. And that will propel all statewide Republicans, or certainly most of them, to victory."

In a statement, Hobbs' campaign manager Nicole DeMont noted the campaign's long-held belief the race would be tight.

"Each and every Arizonan deserves to have their ballot counted and their voice heard, and in the days to come we will continue to watch these results closely to make sure that happens," DeMont said.

As Lake appeared to gain momentum, one Democratic group that spent millions backing Hobbs expressed confidence that Hobbs could eke out a victory over Lake, who has furthered Trump's false claims he won in 2020, though Hobbs would have to carry a relatively large number of the votes left to count.

"There's very much still a clear path to victory for Katie Hobbs," Democratic Governors Association Political Director Marshall Cohen said in a press call. "And the truth and the summary here is that this election will be determined by the numbers of votes cast, not by the volume at which an unhinged former television reporter can scream conspiracy theories."

An official call in the governor's race by the Associated Press could take days.

With national attention on the Grand Canyon State following enduring claims of election malfeasance, and trouble with tabulators on Tuesday, the candidates for governor offered different pictures of their own race.

Hobbs, Arizona's secretary of state and a former lawmaker, urged her supporters in Phoenix late Tuesday to remain patient as the counts come in and have confidence in the results.

Lake, in her late Tuesday speech in Scottsdale, invoked past election patterns alleging something was amiss and voters "deserve to know on election night" who wins. She called the delayed results "groundhog day" for 2020, despite election officials' repeated projections that counting in the battleground state could take days.

On Wednesday evening, after largely spending the day out of the public eye, she told Fox News host Tucker Carlson she would get rid of the voting machines that caused issues on Tuesday.

Maricopa County officials said about 30% of over 220 polling sites had issues with the vote counting machines, leading to about 17,000 ballots that have yet to be counted. Arizonans do not vote on the machines — the state uses only paper ballots.

“When I win, and trust me we will win this, this is going to be top of my agenda,” Lake told Carlson.

Lake said, if elected, she would call lawmakers into a “special session to change our elections so that they are fair, honest and transparent and we get rid of those machines that are not reliable.”

That would come with challenges in terms of staffing and resources to hand count millions of ballots — and also accuracy. The Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C., noted in a report last spring that people are inferior to machines “at completing rote, repetitive tasks.”

Reach reporter Stacey Barchenger at stacey.barchenger@arizonarepublic.com or 480-416-5669. Follow her on Twitter @sbarchenger.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Arizona governor results: Katie Hobbs keeps lead over Kari Lake