Kris Mayes speaks to supporters at an election night watch party on Nov. 8, 2022, in Phoenix. Photo by Christian Petersen | Getty Images
Democrat Kris Mayes was confirmed as Arizona’s next attorney general after the results of a recount in the race were announced Thursday morning, though her margin of victory over Republican opponent Abe Hamadeh was cut nearly in half.
When initial election results were released, Mayes had a narrow 511-vote lead over Hamadeh, but after the recount, that lead shrunk to a razor-thin margin of 280 votes out of some 2.6 million ballots that were cast in November.
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In the recount, which was triggered by a new law that requires a recount when the margin between the two candidates is 0.5% or less, Hamadeh gained 427 votes and Mayes gained 196.
“I will say once again that I’m thankful to everyone who took their time to vote, and democracy truly is a team sport,” Mayes said in a written statement.
Hamadeh filed a lawsuit challenging the results of the election, but it was dismissed last week by a Maricopa County judge.
Hamadeh continued to question the results of the election Thursday after the results of the recount were announced.
“We MUST get to the bottom of this election,” Hamadeh wrote in a tweet. “Transparent elections are fundamental to a democracy. A discrepancy this big in the recount calls for an inspection of ALL the ballots.”
During a press conference Thursday afternoon, Mayes said that Hamadeh had not called to concede or congratulate her on the win.
“Our race is, once again, a reminder that every vote matters and that democracy is truly a team sport,” Mayes said.
Mayes said her main priority now is focusing on forming her staff and her big plans for the first days of her administration. She said her top priorities will be reproductive health, water rights and elder abuse.
Mayes also said she aims to move the AG office away from the “wasteful partisan politics and games” that have been a hallmark of Mark Brnovich’s tenure as attorney general.
During the press conference, Mayes made clear that reproductive health would be front and center during her first week as AG, with plans to reverse an opinion by Brnovich, a Republican, that a Civil War-era abortion ban is constitutional and ought to be enforced. Mayes said it is her belief that the 1864 law violates the Arizona Constitution’s privacy clause, and she said she plans to create a unit within the AG’s Office to protect reproductive health in the state.
Reorganizing and reprioritizing divisions within the AG’s Office appears to be a major priority for Arizona’s second female and first LGBTQ attorney general, who also said she plans to refocus the mission of the Election Integrity Unit. Mayes said she intends to focus the unit more heavily on threats and efforts to intimidate and interfere with voting efforts instead of on instances of alleged fraud.
“What I want to do is reorient the office to protect the right to vote,” Mayes said about the office, which has found little fraud and is headed by Jennifer Wright, who previously co-chaired an organization that worked closely with True the Vote, the group behind many of the false claims in the widely debunked “2000 Mules” film.
Mayes said that rebuilding trust in Arizona’s elections will be a key part of her administration and said that includes prosecuting those who have threatened election officials, like those in Yavapai County who resigned due to death threats.
The Democrat also said that she plans to have a more transparent office with regular press conferences, office hours for constituents to speak to the AG and hopes to open up a new physical location in eastern Arizona.
Lastly, Mayes said that her transition team has identified deficiencies within the division that oversees the hiring of lawyers for the Department of Child Safety. Lawyers that represent the agency are managing up to 180 cases at a time, and the division is running at barely more than half staff, Mayes said.
The results of two more recounts were also announced Thursday morning, but none of the recounts impacted the outcome of the races.
Incoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Republican Tom Horne came out of the recount with a 9,188-vote lead — gaining 221 votes in the recount — over incumbent Democrat Kathy Hoffman.
In the race for a seat in House District 13, Republican Liz Harris won by 275 votes over fellow Republican Julie Willoughby, with Harris gaining five votes in the recount.
“While discrepancies between the original tally and recount results occurred, the variance in this recount did not change the outcome,” Secretary of State Katie Hobbs wrote in a tweet. “The recount process provided an opportunity to ensure that all ballots cast are counted accurately and that the correct winner won.”
***UPDATE: This story has been updated to include comments from Mayes at a press conference several hours after the recount totals were announced.
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