State Sen. Katie Hobbs is on the cusp of winning the race for secretary of state, which would put a Democrat first in the line of succession to governor, after ballot counts reported Thursday allowed her to more than double her lead over her Republican opponent.
Hobbs, a social worker, ended Election Day trailing Steve Gaynor by about 44,000 votes. However, as county elections officials have counted early ballots that were delivered on or the day before the election, Hobbs’ fortunes have changed and she is now poised to be the first Democrat elected to the post since Richard Mahoney in 1991.
She now leads Gaynor by more than 13,000 votes with only about 92,000 left to count. Gaynor would need to win more than 57 percent of the outstanding ballots to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, something that is nearly mathematically impossible, given that Hobbs has won a majority of the late-counted ballots in Maricopa County, where the vast majority of the uncounted ballots are.
In addition to being the state’s top elections officer, the secretary of state is the second-highest post in state government. If the governor is unable to finish his term, the secretary of state is elevated to the post. In recent Arizona history, two of the last five secretaries of state finished a gubernatorial term: Jane Dee Hull became governor in 1997 and Jan Brewer became governor in 2009.