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Democrat Kathy Hoffman takes lead in Arizona school superintendent race

(KTAR News Photos)

PHOENIX – In an under-the-radar ongoing election battle in Arizona, Democrat Kathy Hoffman surged ahead of Republican Frank Riggs on Thursday in the superintendent of public instruction race.

Hoffman moved ahead by more than 20,000 votes after batches of votes heavily favoring Democrats were reported from Maricopa and Pima counties.

Riggs entered the day with an advantage of nearly 8,000 votes.

The race to lead the Arizona Department of Education has largely been overshadowed by the U.S. Senate race, which also swung toward the Democrats on Thursday as Kyrsten Sinema overtook Martha McSally.

However, around 345,000 votes still hadn’t been tabulated in Maricopa County, the largest county in the state. Several other counties still hadn’t completed their count, also.

One other statewide race still appears to be in play in the wake of Thursday’s results. Republican secretary of state candidate Steve Gaynor’s lead over Democrat Katie Hobbs was trimmed to less than 20,000 votes, down from around 44,000.

A victory by Hoffman over Riggs would be a major notch in the belt for the Red for Ed movement in what otherwise has been a disappointing election season.

The Democratic candidate for governor, education professor David Garcia, got steamrolled by double digits against incumbent Doug Ducey.

And a ballot initiative that would have raised taxes on high-income earners to fund education never made it in front of voters.

After supporters collected enough signatures for the Invest in Ed initiative, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled the wording of the measure wasn’t accurate on how it would impact taxpayers and kicked it off the ballot.

Meanwhile, the counting continued while a lawsuit over Tuesday’s election was playing out.

Republicans filed a lawsuit Wednesday night to challenge the way some Arizona counties count mail-in ballots.

About 75 percent of Arizona voters cast ballots by mail, but those ballots have to go through the laborious signature confirmation process, and only then can be opened and tabulated. If county recorders have issues verifying signatures they are allowed to ask voters to verify their identity.

The suit filed by four county Republican parties — Maricopa, Apache, Navajo and Yuma counties — alleges that the state’s 15 county recorders don’t follow a uniform standard for allowing voters to adjust problems with their mail-in ballots, and that two counties improperly allow those fixes after Election Day.

Lawyers for Maricopa County told a judge during a Thursday hearing that only a tiny percentage of the nearly 500,000 ballots they have yet to count could be affected by the lawsuit. A full hearing has been set for Friday afternoon.

In the meantime, a judge ruled that the counting could continue.

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