Katie Hobbs declares victory in Arizona secretary of state's race

Dustin Gardiner
The Republic | azcentral.com
Secretary of State candidate, Democrat Katie Hobbs, answers questions from the Editorial Board of the Arizona Republic, Monday, October 1, 2018.

Democrat Katie Hobbs declared victory Friday night in the race to be Arizona's next secretary of state.

In a press statement, Hobbs thanked her campaign and supporters. She and Republican Steve Gaynor had been locked in a close contest for days as more votes are tallied.

"As Secretary of State, I will work to ensure that every eligible voter — Republican, Democrat, Independent, Green, Libertarian — can cast your ballot with the confidence that your vote counts and your voice matters, and do so in a way that is meaningful and convenient for you," Hobbs said.

Gaynor called Hobbs before 7 p.m. to concede.

"It was an honor to be the Republican nominee," he posted on Twitter shortly afterward. "Many thanks to everyone who supported my campaign. Best of luck to Katie."

Hobbs' election is a major victory for Democrats, who spent more than $3 million to boost her campaign. The party hasn't held Arizona's No. 2 executive office since early 1995.

Her declaration came hours after Gov. Doug Ducey congratulated her for winning.

In a video posted on social media Friday afternoon, Ducey said he had already spoken to Hobbs about her victory. Gaynor had not yet conceded at the time.

"I said, 'Congratulations, race well run and I'm looking forward to working with you,'" Ducey said. "I think we can work well together."

Hobbs was ahead of Gaynor by more than 15,000 votes in updated results Friday evening. Additional results from Maricopa County were expected through the weekend.

In Arizona, the secretary of state is essentially the lieutenant governor, next in line to succeed Ducey if he were to leave office early.

Four of Arizona's last nine governors have ascended through the Secretary of State's Office.

The secretary of state's primary duty is managing the statewide elections system, which has faced a string of problems in recent years.

Steve Gaynor

Gaynor, a wealthy businessman, led the race by more than 44,000 votes on election night and the Associated Press originally declared him the winner.

But Hobbs, a state senator from Phoenix, overtook Gaynor as more voters were counted in the state's urban areas, Maricopa and Pima counties.

Hobbs, the minority leader in the Arizona Senate, focused her campaign on proposals to improve voting access.

She said the state needs to remove barriers that can make it hard for minorities, seniors and low-income people to vote.

"I think every American should want every American to be able to vote," Hobbs said during the campaign.

Gaynor, who spent more than $2.3 million of his own fortune in the race, defeated incumbent Secretary of State Michele Reagan in the GOP primary, a race that was defined by his attacks on her missteps administering elections.

On Election Day, Reagan said she looked forward to working with whoever wins the race.

“I want to get in whoever wins early, and maybe even have them to our holiday party," she said during an interview on KTAR. "I wish someone would have done that for me. I am going to walk out of there with my head held high.”

Earlier this week, the Associated Press — which had projected Gaynor would win — took the rare step of retracting its race call. The AP hadn't revised its projection as of Friday evening.

It's highly improbable that Gaynor can overtake Hobbs' lead given there are about 60,000 ballots left to count in Maricopa County, and the county has narrowly favored Hobbs.

More than 2.3 million ballots have been tallied statewide.