Secretary of state race a toss up despite early AP call

Nov 11, 2018, 7:55 PM | Updated: 8:32 pm

Arizona secretary of state candidate Katie Hobbs, right, chats with a supporter at a get-out-the vo...

Arizona secretary of state candidate Katie Hobbs, right, chats with a supporter at a get-out-the vote event at the Arizona Education Association headquarters in Phoenix Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018. (AP Photo/Bob Christie)

(AP Photo/Bob Christie)

PHOENIX — On Election Day, the Associated Press declared Republican Steve Gaynor as Arizona’s new secretary of state.

Less than a week later, it’s anybody’s guess to who will win the position.

Democrat Katie Hobbs briefly overtook Gaynor on Sunday, a stark change from Tuesday when Gaynor held 51 percent of the vote to Hobbs’ 48 percent when AP declared him the winner.

By Sunday night, Gaynor led Hobbs by less than 300 votes with about 220,000 votes left to be counted statewide.

It was the culmination of a strong few days for Hobbs, who trimmed Gaynor’s lead from 10,000 votes on Friday to 3,000 votes on Saturday before Sunday’s count.

Hobbs’ campaign foreshadowed the comeback earlier this week.

Hobbs’ campaign said in a statement on Tuesday that she would challenge the call made by The Associated Press.

“The Associated Press has incorrectly called the secretary of state race in Arizona with a razor-thin margin and hundreds of thousands of ballots remaining to be counted,” campaign manager Niles Harris said in a statement.

“This decision by the Associated Press is head-scratching, but Katie Hobbs will not stop until every Arizona citizen’s vote has been counted.”

There are now about 220,000 ballots statewide that have to be counted before a 5 p.m. deadline on Wednesday, set in a court settlement last Wednesday.

The deadline allows county recorders time to “cure” early ballots by matching signatures on the ballot with voter registration signatures, and to make sure that voters did not submit an early ballot and a ballot on election night.

Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes said his office will continue counting through the weekend, on Veterans Day and into next week, until all votes are counted, and making daily reports at 5 p.m.

He said the county’s equipment can process only around 75,000 ballots a day.

If the margin of victory by either candidate is less than one-tenth of one percent, the race will head to a run-off between the two candidates.

The secretary of state’s office handles record keeping and business services in addition to responsibilities involving voter registration and candidate filing as part of the Election Services Division.

The person also serves as acting governor when the sitting governor leaves the state.

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Secretary of state race a toss up despite early AP call