Editor’s note: This story has been revised multiple times since the original publication because of the changing vote tally.
It took nearly two weeks, but it’s finally safe to declare victory for Sen. Kate Brophy McGee.
The Phoenix Republican was left waiting thanks to a slow vote-counting process by the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office, which released its final batch of tabulated ballots late Monday afternoon. That final count left Brophy McGee’s lead at 267 votes over former Arizona Teacher of the Year Christine Marsh in Legislative District 28.
It’s been a rollercoaster ride for both candidates since Election Day. What started as an 808 vote lead for Brophy McGee that night nearly doubled to 1,458 votes the morning after. By November 9, that lead would be down to 616 votes.
From then on, Brophy McGee’s lead steadily shrunk as Maricopa County elections officials counted late-early ballots, mail-in ballots that were turned in the day of the midterm election, as well as provisional ballots.
Some days, Brophy McGee earned more votes than Marsh. But more often than not, the updates favored her Democratic challenger, who relied not only a surge of support for Democrats while President Trump occupies the White House, but also strong backing of the #RedforEd movement and public education supporters leary of Republican representation at the Capitol.
Brophy McGee gained some breathing room over the weekend, when a 280-vote advantage grew to 347 votes on Saturday evening. It was enough to help ensure she’d win with enough votes to avoid a recount, which would’ve been triggered by a lead of 50 votes or less.
LD28 candidates, particularly its state senators, routinely face tough elections in an area of Phoenix where Republicans hold a voter registration advantage, but independents often sway races and have a history of electing at least one Democrat to serve at the Capitol.
In Marsh, a high school English teacher riding a groundswell of support from fellow educators amid the #RedforEd movement, Brophy McGee faced arguably her toughest challenge yet.
Brophy McGee has gotten this far by walking a fine line on the campaign trail as a moderate Republican, and overcoming a rash of GOP infighting in the district.
Having finished her first term in the Senate, Brophy McGee isn’t always popular in GOP circles for her political positions, which skew toward bipartisan results. Even her own brother has contributed to her political rivals in the Republican Party, with Brophy McGee explaining her brother and sister-in-law favor more conservative candidates.
Her candidacy was at one point threatened by a fellow Republican, Rep. Maria Syms, whose husband sought to run against Brophy McGee as an independent. Throwing a third candidate, one aligned with a Republican like Syms, could have pulled votes away from Brophy McGee and swung the race in Marsh’s favor.
Following a lawsuit and the discovery that hundreds of the would-be candidate’s signatures were invalid, Brophy McGee was back to the campaign trail, where she told voters she has done all she can to boost funding for education.
Brophy McGee has boasted of her push to extend a sales tax for education, her support of Gov. Doug Ducey’s plan to give teachers a 20-percent pay raise over three years. She’s even threatened to sue a political committee that accused her of slashing education funding while in office.
Marsh, who has spent 26 years in the classroom, most recently at Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, has criticized Republicans like Brophy McGee for not doing enough for teachers. And her pitch, like many other Democrats, focused in part on taking control of the Senate from Republicans, who she accused of leaving schools in a constant state of underfunding.
By surviving Marsh’s challenge, Brophy McGee is now the last remaining Republican legislator in the district. Syms and GOP newcomer Kathy Pappas Petsas were swept in the House race by Democrats Aaron Lieberman and Rep. Kelli Butler.