by Mariana Dale
On Tuesday evening, Republican Jonathan Paton held a slim lead over Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick.
This afternoon, with 337 of 339 precincts reporting, Kirkpatrick had 7,354 more votes than Paton, according to the Arizona Secretary of State's Office.
"The race turned out exactly as we thought it would," said Kirkpatrick. "I got eight hours of sleep last night."
Kirkpatrick isn't ready to make any victory speeches yet, though. About 80,000 early and provisional ballots remain to be counted in Pima County. The Kirkpatrick camp is waiting on a declaration from the Associated Press before saying anything decisive.
Kirkpatrick said that her position on job creation distinguished her campaign.
"The district is so large and diverse and the fact that I'm fighting for jobs and I have this vision of a diversified sustainable economy resonates throughout the district," Kirkpatrick said.
Paton spoke optimistically about becoming the conservative voice in Southern Arizona at Tuesday night's Republican election night gathering at the Sheraton.
""I think the fact is that we have not had a conservative voice in Southern Arizona for a long time and part of my responsibility is to make sure that voice is heard," Paton said.
This afternoon Paton released a statement via email:
I am deeply honored that so many Arizonans cast their ballots for our campaign. After a long night, our race is still too close to call. Currently, there are reports of tens of thousands of uncounted votes in Pima County alone. In our democracy, it is important that every legally cast vote is counted, and we will continue to monitor the results.
Though the Democrats held a near 9-point voter-registration advantage, the race was predicted to be tight from the beginning. In the final weeks, millions of dollars in independent expenditures flowed in from various PACs.