Arizona has made history with the election of Democratic U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema to the U.S. Senate. Following a nail-biter of a race, Sinema is now the first woman from Arizona to ever be elected to the Senate and the first Democrat from the Grand Canyon State to hold the seat since Dennis DeConcini was elected in 1976 to the first of his three terms.
Meanwhile, the election for secretary of state remains undecided. Republican businessman and Valley Jewish resident Steve Gaynor is in a neck-and-neck race against Democratic candidate Katie Hobbs. If he wins, Gaynor will hold the highest statewide office a Jewish person has ever been elected to in the state’s history.
However, that win appears to be slipping from Gaynor’s hands. On election night, the Associated Press declared him the winner with 40,000 more votes than Hobbs. But as 650,000 remaining ballots were counted over the following days, Gaynor’s lead eroded. With more ballots still left to count, Hobbs now leads Gaynor by 5,300 votes, a margin of 0.24 percent. Another ballot count update is expected Wednesday afternoon. If Hobbs wins, she will be the first Democrat to hold the secretary of state office since 1995.
Although less dramatic than Gaynor’s change of fortune, Republican U.S. Rep. Martha McSally was just ahead of Sinema after election night. Again, those remaining 650,000 votes pushed Sinema over the top. McSally conceded the election on Tuesday. However, McSally is likely to end up in the Senate anyway. Following the death of Sen. John McCain, re-elected Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey appointed former Republican U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl to the seat. Now, national and state political watchers are predicting that Kyl will step down and Ducey will appoint McSally to the seat. A special election to fill the vacancy will be held in 2020.
Another Jewish candidate was a casualty of the 650,000 ballots. Two seats were up for grabs on the Arizona Corporation Commission. On election night, Republicans Justin Olson and Jewish candidate Rodney Glassman appeared headed for a win, with Democratic candidate Sandra Kennedy coming in third. But a week later, as the remaining votes were counted, Kennedy became the top vote-getter, followed by Olson, with Glassman the odd man out.
The reason why the 650,000 ballots swung some races into blue territory was because they came from strong blue Pima County and blue-leaning urban Maricopa County.
Overall, the election was a mixed bag for Jewish candidates.
In statewide races, Denise “Mitzi” Epstein won one of two seats in Legislative District (LD) 18. Epstein’s fellow Democrat, Jennifer Jermaine, won the second LD 18 seat. Aaron Lieberman and fellow Democrat Kelli Butler declared victory in LD 28 to capture the two seats up for grabs there. When Alma Hernandez won LD 3 near the border with Mexico, she made history as the first Hispanic Jewish woman elected to the state legislature. Her fellow Democratic candidate, Andres Cano, also won in the two-seat election.
Losing their races were Democrat Jennifer Samuels for LD 15 and Democrat Joan Greene for the 5th Congressional District.
Among the propositions on the ballot, Proposition 305, which called for expanding a program that would have allowed 30,000 more public school students to use public money to attend private schools, was the most contentious. It lost 65 percent to 35 percent. However, the vote may be for naught, as supporters of Prop. 305 already are asking the Arizona Legislature to make laws promoting school choice and vouchers. Opponents vow to block any such actions.
Jewish News will continue to update this story.