Katie Hobbs elected Arizona governor, defeating Trump-backed election denier Kari Lake
Katie Hobbs, Arizona’s Democratic election chief who built a national profile by standing up to false claims about the 2020 presidential election, has won the state’s race for governor.
The Associated Press, NBC News and CNN called the race for Hobbs Monday shortly after 7 p.m. local time, following a nail-biter week of election returns that highlighted the competitiveness of politics in the state.
Late-in-the-race polling showed Hobbs trailing her GOP opponent Kari Lake, the former television news anchor embraced by former President Donald Trump for her groundless claims of a 2020 stolen election. Instead, voters offered a stunning rebuke of Lake, who was one of the nation’s most prominent election deniers.
With Hobbs’ win, Arizonans followed voters in other battleground states who rejected gubernatorial candidates who pushed false claims about election results.
As Arizona’s 24th governor, Hobbs will be the fifth female to hold the top elected office, more than in any other state.
The toss-up race was one of the most closely watched in the country, a reflection of the swing state’s political landscape shifting from ruby red to purple in recent years.
The suspense continued for nearly a week after Election Day while the number of votes separating Hobbs and Lake remained too few to reliably declare a winner. Hobbs initially held a 14 percentage-point advantage on election night, which Lake chipped away at as the counting of votes continued.
That course echoed former President Donald Trump’s slow comeback against Joe Biden as votes were counted in 2020. Just like Trump, however, Lake ultimately was not able to surpass the Democrat.
Recap:Arizona Democrat Katie Hobbs wins governor's race, defeats Republican election denier Kari Lake
Hobbs, 52, was narrowly elected secretary of state in 2018, after serving in the Arizona Legislature for eight years. As secretary of state, she oversaw elections and some business records. In that post, she also defended Biden’s win in the face of Trump’s unprecedented efforts to remain in power, earning herself a national profile while doing so.
Before she was a lawmaker, Hobbs worked in behavioral health and handled contracts and lobbying for the Sojourner Center, one of the nation’s largest domestic violence shelters. A native of Tempe, she is married to a child therapist, and they have two adult children.
Her campaign for governor centered on a pledge to restore abortion rights that were limited when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade earlier this year. She has plans to bolster teacher salaries and create tax credits for Arizonans who pursue career and technical education and lower-income families with children.
But the hallmark of her pitch to Arizonans was that Hobbs would defend democracy, and she painted Lake as too extreme for her unwillingness to say she would accept defeat and for her past comments that she would not have certified Biden’s 2020 win. Whether Lake will concede to Hobbs is unknown.
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The choice before Arizonans was not Republican or Democrat, but “sanity versus chaos,” Hobbs repeated along the campaign trail.
Arizonans last elected a Democratic governor in 2006, when they chose Janet Napolitano to serve a second term. Napolitano was first elected in 2002 and resigned in 2009 to work in then-President Barack Obama’s administration.
Hobbs outraised Lake ahead of the November election and outspent her in the cycle, too. With outside money seeking to influence the race factored in, $24.6 million buoyed Hobbs' bid compared to $19.4 million backing Lake, according to the latest financial reports.
While the race echoed national themes, with Lake hammering on border security, inflation and blasting Hobbs for refusing to debate her, it was also dynamic in other ways.
Lake built a national profile too, both from her allegiance to Trump and how much she leaned on her nearly three-decade career as a television anchor to present herself to voters on social media and along the campaign trail.
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Hobbs came off as less polished, even after a 12-year career in elected office, yet she survived controversies, including the lingering stain of a discrimination case that unfolded while Hobbs was a leader in the state Senate.
Lake barnstormed the state drawing large, Trump-esque crowds in rallies that at times seemed more like a rock show, pitching her anti-COVID-19 mandate stance and culture war campaign to the over 7 million people who call Arizona home. Hobbs made a circuit of smaller events, speaking to advocates on issues of women’s health care and housing.
The candidates’ run to the finish line featured a couple of twists and visits from high profile surrogates.
Surprises included an apparently random burglary at Hobbs’ campaign headquarters and a scare at Lake’s office involving white powder in mailed letters, though it turned out they didn’t have any powder in them at all. Trump returned to the Grand Canyon State in October to help Lake’s bid, and Obama stumped for Hobbs and other Democrats on Nov. 2.
Hobbs will succeed two-term Gov. Doug Ducey, a more establishment Republican who shepherded the state from facing financial calamity to surplus. She will take the oath of office in early January.
Reach reporter Stacey Barchenger at email@example.com or 480-416-5669. Follow her on Twitter @sbarchenger.
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