Democratic Representative Kyrsten Sinema last night took the lead for the first time in Arizona’s very tight U.S. Senate race. At last count she had lead of 9,610 votes over Republican Representative Martha McSally in a contest that is still considered too-close-to-call.
Sinema’s lead is less than one-half of one percent as votes are still rolling in, primarily from Maricopa County.
According to new figures obtained from the Arizona secretary of state’s website an additional 120,000 outstanding ballots were made available from Maricopa County Thursday. Maricopa County includes the capital of Phoenix, as well as Sinema’s own congressional district.
Votes were also coming in from Pinal, Gila and Pima counties. Pima is a heavily Democratic county that’s home to the city Tucson and the University of Arizona.
There are still approximately 345,000 ballots that need to be counted per the Arizona Secretary of State’s office. It could take several days for the process to be completed.
The Sinema’s lead is a significant shift from McSally’s initial 1-point lead as of early Thursday. At that time the GOP congresswoman was up by 17,073 votes.
As Sinema slightly pulled ahead on Thursday, a judge rejected a Republican lawsuit challenging the state’s mail-in ballot counting procedures.
Judge Margaret Mahoney set a hearing on the GOP lawsuit for Friday regarding about 5,600 votes from Maricopa County, which has been steadily releasing numbers on mail-in ballots since Tuesday’s election.
Some county recorders have been calling voters who submitted mail-in ballots with signatures that don’t match what’s on file to verify their signature. Republicans allege in the suit that this procedure violates state law.
But Mahoney on Thursday said it was too soon to tell those counties to stop contacting those voters. The judge also wouldn’t tell the counties to temporarily separate mail ballots verified through this procedure.
The Maricopa County recorder announced that the next update will be posted on Friday at 5 p.m. local time.
Prior to the first batch of outstanding votes being released, Sinema’s campaign released a statement expressing her confidence in her chances to win once all the remaining ballots are tallied.
“Arizonans must have faith that their votes are counted, and we are working diligently to ensure that count proceeds in a fair, transparent, and timely manner that voters can trust,” Sinema campaign manager Andrew Piatt said in the statement. He also said that her campaign believes she will be victorious after the remaining uncounted votes are counted.
McSally’s campaign also expressed confidence in a Thursday night statement.
“With half a million ballots left to count we remain confident that as votes continue to come in from counties across the state, Martha McSally will be elected Arizona’s next Senator,” McSally Campaign CEO Jim Bognet wrote in the statement.
Although Republicans are guaranteed to remain in control of the U.S. Senate, the prospect of picking up a Democratic seat in the red state of Arizona is a bright spot for Democrats. It shows that there really was a Blue Wave in the 2018 midterm elections.