Democrat Katie Hobbs has narrowly defeated Republican Kari Lake to become Arizona’s next governor, the UK Time News predicted, ensuring one of America’s most prominent 2020 election deniers won’t oversee the 2024 vote in the pivotal swing state .
With nearly 98% of districts reporting, the UKTN declared the race for Hobbs, who led by more than 20,000 votes Monday night after Arizona officials spent nearly a week counting every last batch of ballots to determine the winner. Hobbs’ margin of victory over Lake – a former Phoenix news anchor and a particular favorite of former President Donald Trump – was about 1 percentage point.
“Democracy is worth waiting for,” Hobbs said tweeted. Thank you Arizona. I am so honored and so proud to be your next governor.”
As Arizona Secretary of State, Hobbs made national headlines for opposing ruthless right-wing efforts to reverse Trump’s 2020 loss there.
But in the final days of the campaign, Lake became the subject of intense national media attention after overtaking Hobbs in the polls. Some Democratic strategists even began to speculate about Lake as a future White House candidate.
“When you get a candidate who has the performance skills of a local big-market TV anchor and the philosophy and thinking of Steve Bannon, that’s a powerful and dangerous combination,” said David Axelrod, a top political aide to President Barack. Obama, to UKTN. last month. “Look at Italy.”
Yet Lake is now the seventh Trump supporter to lose a hotly contested gubernatorial race this year, following similar defeats in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Maine, New York and Kansas.
The fact that she was considered the most talented of the bunch is yet another sign that Republicans missed a big opportunity in 2022 by nominating MAGA firefighters instead of more mainstream conservatives.
Preliminary Arizona exit polls reinforce this reading. Hobbs defeated Lake among independents—who made up a larger portion of Arizona’s electorate at 40% than Democrats (27%) or Republicans (33%)—by a margin of 52% to 45%. Typically, the president’s party loses independents by double digits in the medium term. Among the self-described moderates—a full 42% of the Arizona electorate—Hobbs won by 20 percentage points.
Meanwhile, in neighboring Nevada, Republican Joe Lombardo succeeded in unseating Democratic incumbent Steve Sisolak, in part by winning over independent voters; unlike Lake, Lombardo repeatedly insisted that the 2020 race wasn’t rigged and stolen while refusing to describe Trump as a “great” president.
In Georgia — a state nearly as close as Arizona in 2020 — Republican Governor Brian Kemp won by nearly 8 points after opposing Trump’s efforts to overturn that election. In Ohio, Republican Governor Mike DeWine, who has long held the former president at bay, swept reelection by more than 25 points.
And despite a very favorable political climate and an Arizona electorate that has swung rightward in the midterms, Lake far outperformed the state’s current GOP governor, Doug Ducey, who won office twice by a double-digit margin.
Hobbs entered the gubernatorial race as the frontrunner, leading Lake by an average of 7 percentage points in August.
But in the final weeks of the campaign, Lake — propelled by national tailwinds and Hobbs’ choice not to face her in a debate — rose in the polls. Local and state Democrats began to write off Hobbs as too understated and soft-spoken to win.
In the end, though, it was Lake that fell short.
As governor, Hobbs — a social worker who previously spent eight years in the Arizona legislature, including a stint as Senate Democratic leader — has pledged to repeal the state’s pre-roe ban on all abortions except those necessary to protect the health or life of the mother. She has also vowed to push for voluntary universal early childhood education, full-day kindergarten, an annual child tax credit, and a permanent childcare program for working families.
Control of state legislatures remains unclear; if Republicans have even one chamber, they are likely to oppose Hobbs’ agenda at every opportunity.
Perhaps Hobbs’ most lasting influence will come in the area where she made her mark as Secretary of State. After the 2020 election, Arizona’s far-right Republican activists and legislators did everything they could to reverse Trump’s loss of 10,457 votes — the narrowest margin of any state in the country.
But none of the 24 charges filed in Maricopa, the state’s largest county, were upheld by the court. Multiple audits (including a private count funded by Trump supporters) found no evidence of fraud. In fact, the partisan GOP audit ultimately increased Joe Biden’s margin of victory by 360 votes.
“There is absolutely no basis for claims of widespread voter fraud in Arizona,” Hobbs said at the time.
Regardless, Lake went on to attack Biden as an “illegitimate fool” who is president only because the election was “stolen and corrupt.” She unapologetically promoted nearly every debunked conspiracy theory about 2020. Years later, she continued to demand the decertification of the Arizona result. “We are already noticing theft,” she said in the run-up to her primaries. “If we don’t win, there will be fraud.”
Starting next year, Hobbs will be able to shape the state’s election rules — as well as block any attempts by the GOP legislature to make voting more difficult (or to make rolling back the 2024 election easier).
Hobbs has said she wants to clean up voter rolls by using the National Change of Address database; to fund mitigation audits for future elections; and to mandate impartial post-election audits. She also hopes to expand ballot access to include same-day registration and in-person early voting that continues through the weekend before Election Day.