Political newcomer Steve Gaynor rose to the top, and fast.
Gaynor, who had never sought political office before, won the Secretary of State’s race Tuesday, making him Arizona’s next top elections chief and second-in-command to Gov. Doug Ducey.
Gaynor defeated Hobbs, the state Senate Minority leader, according to the Associated Press. But Hobbs refused to admit defeat because thousands of ballots had yet to be counted when the AP declared Gaynor the winner.
Hobbs’ campaign manager Niles Harris said in a statement that the AP incorrectly called the race.
“We are cautiously optimistic that when all the ballots are counted, Katie Hobbs will be elected Arizona’s next Secretary of State,” he said. “This decision by the Associated Press is head-scratching, but Katie Hobbs will not stop until every Arizona citizen’s vote has been counted.”
In his brief victory speech, Gaynor conceded that many ballots had not yet been counted. But the AP is rarely wrong, he said. Nevertheless, he said he understood why Hobbs had not conceded as of late Tuesday evening.
“I thought that my message was the right message for Arizona,” Gaynor said. “Assuming that when all the votes are counted the AP was correct, then I think voters agreed with me.”
Gaynor, a wealthy businessman, relied largely on self-funding, pouring at least $2.35 million of his own money into his campaign. Self-funding the campaign was absolutely the right decision, Gaynor said Tuesday, pointing out that Hobbs and outside groups were still outspending him at least 2:1 in the final weeks before Election Day.
Outside groups, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State and iVote – a group that supports Democratic candidates for secretaries of state – aided Hobbs’ bid.
Gaynor acknowledges that he faces a learning curve going into the Secretary of State’s office, which will be his first stint as an elected official. But he said he studied up on the office before ever deciding to run.
“I’ve studied the office and I’ve already established relationships with many of the county elections officials so it’s not as if I’m walking in cold,” he said.
Before jumping into the statewide race, Gaynor was largely unknown in the Republican political scene. He said he was recruited to run for Secretary of State by unnamed Republicans who believed incumbent Michele Reagan could not defeat a Democrat this year. Gaynor easily defeated Reagan in the GOP primary.
Secretary of State race by the numbers
Katie Hobbs: 48.6 percent
Steve Gaynor: 51.4 percent