Shortly after The Associated Press and major networks announced the race, six days after the state’s polls closed, Hobbs sent a tweet declare victory. “Democracy is worth the wait,” she wrote. “Thank you, Arizona. I am honored and proud to be your next Governor.”
Lake seemed not to accept defeat, casting doubt on the outcome an hour later in a tweet that read: “Arizonians know bullshit when they see it.”
On the campaign trail, Hobbs said she would protect abortion rights in Arizona, where new restrictions later went into effect Roe v Wade was overthrown. She’s also trying to appeal to independent and moderate Republican voters in Arizona, and has won over some prominent conservatives who are uncomfortable with the party’s direction. Hobbs’ fundraiser featured the family of the late Republican Sen. John McCain, while the Rep. PAC. Liz Cheney (R), Trump’s loudest Republican critic in Congress, ran an ad against Lake.
But Hobbs’ rivalry with Lake has been intense, as Lake has galvanized the Republican base and capitalized on broader factors working in her party’s favour, such as high inflation and a backlash against federal border policy. When Hobbs declined to debate Lake — saying Lake wanted a “spectacle” rather than a discussion — she drew criticism from both parties.
Much of the GOP establishment in Arizona opposed Lake in the GOP primary in favor of a more traditional candidate, Carlin Taylor-Robson, who did not fully embrace the Trump’s false election claims. Many worried that Lake, a Trump stalwart whom Lake had ridiculed, would lose a purple state known for electing moderates like McCain. “We’ve pierced the heart of the McCain machine with a stake,” she declared at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, making a stabbing motion for emphasis.
But even critics, including one-time opponents of the governor, recognize Lake’s charm. Doug Ducey, co-chair of the Republican Governors Association, right, eventually rallied behind her.
A former social worker and state legislator, Hobbs became Arizona’s secretary of state in 2018, flipping the seat blue for the first time in more than 20 years. If the governor were to step down, it would make her next in line — and put her on the front lines of election officials facing threats and false accusations of wrongdoing after the 2020 election. Americans came to know Hobbs, who became a national television fixture after that election, as a counterweight to the election denialism the state bred unsubstantiated theories surrounding Trump’s defeat.
As governor, Lake could have justified the vote on a key battleground in 2024. If she wins, Lake is poised to convene a special legislative session at the state capitol to try to push through an overhaul of Arizona’s voting system, which she has mocked. She is running with other Republican candidates who have denied the 2020 election results, including far-right Secretary of State candidate Mark Finchem, who has joined Lake in trying to ban voting machines in the state. Finchem is expected to lose on Friday alongside Trump-backed Republican Senate candidate Blake Masters, who challenged for the Senate. Mark Kelly (D).
“We know that my opponent and her allies have been sowing doubt and confusion throughout the campaign,” Hobbs said in a speech on election night, reminding people that counting votes takes time.
Hobbs’ win meant Democrats picked up two governorships, with wins in Arizona, Maryland and Massachusetts offset by a Republican victory in Nevada. In the swing state of Nevada, Republican Sheriff Joe Lombardo ousted the governor. Steve Sisolak (D) criticized his handling of crime, the coronavirus pandemic and the economy. But while Republicans have high hopes for blue states like New York and Oregon, the Democratic incumbent has held out elsewhere — including swing races in Wisconsin, Michigan and Kansas.
Hobbs’ victory came as a surprise to many Republicans and even some Democrats. However, Secret Service agents who expected Kelly to win by a narrow margin predicted that Hobbs — who was not a condescending figure on the campaign trail — would fall to the well-known former news anchor near Phoenix, the state’s The hometown of most voters.
Even when incomplete results from last week’s midterms began to point to a victory for Kelly in the Senate, Republican modeling still gave Lake a lead over her Democratic opponent, according to people familiar with the matter. Over the weekend, however, that changed, with one of Lake’s advisers calling the gubernatorial race a “coin flip.”
Anxiety among Republicans was heightened after the results showed Lake underperforming, especially among independent voters, according to a person familiar with the matter. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the content publicly.
Lake has confounded some strategists and donors in the final days of the campaign by pandering to the Republican base rather than independents. More than a third of Arizona’s voters are independents, slightly lower than Republicans and slightly higher than Democrats, according to state data.
She went on to attack McCain, asking the crowd, “We don’t have any McCain Republicans here, do we? Get out!” Stephen K. Bannon took the stage and was enthusiastic about his far-right radio show “War Room.”
She also baselessly suggested that Hillary Clinton was trying to kill her, and asked her audience to applaud Wendy Rogers, the far-right state lawmaker who elevated white nationalists to “patriots.” And called for the execution of her political opponents, saying at one point, “We need to build more gallows.”
The approach has attracted legions of die-hard supporters, but that enthusiasm doesn’t seem to translate into a coalition broad enough to win.
With vote counting still underway, some Republicans acknowledged that messages from Trump, Lake, state GOP Chair Kelly Ward and others calling for early voting to vote in person or at the polls on Election Day may have swayed the Republican turnout. The directives run counter to the popularity of early voting in the state, which has seen Republicans’ early voting performance drop in Maricopa County in the final days of the election.
Republican strategy depends on a smooth election. Instead, about a third of polling places across the county have problems with on-demand printers, sparking a barrage of unsubstantiated allegations from Lake, Trump and other Republicans that the problems disproportionately target Republican districts . County officials pushed back hard, and a Washington Post analysis of the data found that Republican areas of the county were not disproportionately affected by the problems.
Yvonne Wingett Sanchez in Phoenix and Amy B Wang in Washington contributed to this report.