Martha McSally held a slim 133-vote margin over incumbent Congressman Ron Barber with nearly all of the votes counted as of Tuesday, Nov. 11.
But that tight margin in one of the hardest fought and most expensive congressional campaigns in the country means there will be an automatic recount—and because of the nature of voting equipment, a recount could produce a different result.
McSally expressed confidence that she would win the race.
"No doubt this has been a long process for everyone involved and we are grateful for all the support and encouragement we've seen," McSally said. "There are still ballots left to count, but we are confident that when all ballots are in, our lead will hold. We will continue to provide oversight of the process until then."
But Barber spokeswoman Ashley Nash-Hahn said the race remained "too close to call."
"This is the closest congressional election in Arizona history," Nash-Hahn said. "The law calls for an automatic recount in a race this close, and that is where we are headed."
She also suggested that Team Barber might take legal action to get provisional ballots that were tossed out by the Pima County Recorder's Office included in the recount.
"We remain committed to protecting the integrity of the vote in Southern Arizona," Nash-Hahn said. "In Pima County, 782 voters had their ballots rejected, and those votes have not been counted. During the legal recount process, we will work to see that every lawful vote is counted and that the voices of Southern Arizona are heard."
The recount is just the latest twist in a rematch between two candidates who were separated by less than 2,500 votes in 2012.
McSally—one of the GOP's top recruits in 2014—saw her lead steadily shrink as more votes were counted in Pima County, but her strong showing in Cochise County carried her over the top.
Election staff spent Veterans Day running the last of the provisional ballots—or ballots that needed a double-check by the Pima County Recorder's Office to ensure that they were legitimate—and only about 200 votes remained to be counted, according to county spokesman Mark B. Evans. An unknown number are in Congressional District 2.
Team McSally went to court on Monday to try to have a set of provisional ballots set aside from the tally because an accompanying form was missing a signature from a poll worker.
But Pima County Superior Court Judge James Marner refused to grant a temporary restraining order or preliminary restraining order to block the counting of the questioned ballots.
Marner expressed skepticism that McSally's legal team could prevail on the merits of the case, but McSally's lawyers could still pursue the matter depending on how the vote count goes.
Lawyers for both campaigns, as well as a deputy county attorney, were in court Monday morning to debate whether the questioned ballots should be set aside until a substantive argument could be made as to whether they are valid.
Attorney Dan Barr, representing the Barber campaign, said that the voters' ballots shouldn't be disqualified based on a technical error.
Barr said the question was whether the court should "toss aside a voter's ballot when they didn't do anything wrong. They did everything they were supposed to do ... and because of some technical error, we're not going to count their vote."
Deputy Pima County Attorney Daniel Jurkowitz said that if these sorts of challenges regarding minor technical errors were regularly entertained, then elections would never be resolved.
"There's no such thing as a perfect election," Jurkowitz said.
Attorney Brett W. Johnson, representing the McSally campaign, said that an elections manual distributed by the Arizona Secretary of State's office did include a provision that stated that administrative errors are grounds for disqualifying ballots.
But other sections of the manual conflicted with that rule and Secretary of State Ken Bennett testified that that were other safeguards to ensure election integrity beyond the signatures on the forms.
Marner said the election manual was "a bit of a head scratcher" but expressed his judgment that the McSally legal team was not likely to prevail on the merits of its case, so he would not grant their request to stop the counting of the questioned ballots.
Nash-Hahn blasted the legal maneuver.
"Martha McSally will do anything to win, even throwing out the votes of Southern Arizonans," said Nash-Hahn. "Today was a win for democracy and a win for the people of Southern Arizona, who will make their voice heard at the ballot box—no matter how hard McSally tries to silence us."
McSally campaign spokesman Patrick Ptak said that McSally wanted to ensure all rules were properly followed and expressed concern that someone within the Pima County Recorder's Office could be engaged in some kind of funny business.
"We're disappointed that a motion to shed more light on the rules being decided inside the Recorder's Office was denied," said Ptak. "Southern Arizonans deserve to know that all procedures are being followed to ensure ballots are valid and that rules aren't simply being decided on a whim."
In the other northwest-side congressional district, Democratic U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick defeated Republican challenger Andy Tobin by nearly 5 percentage points.
Both CD1 and CD2 were among the top districts targeted by the National Republican Congressional Committee and its allies, who poured millions into the districts. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the House Majority PAC, Gabby Giffords' Americans for Responsible Solutions and their allies also combined to spent millions of dollars.
In other races:
• Democrats were not as lucky at the statewide level, as Republicans swept the executive offices: Republican Doug Ducey defeated Democrat Fred DuVal in the governor's race; Republican Mark Brnovich prevailed over Democrat Felecia Rotellini in the Attorney General's race; Republican Michele Reagan beat Democrat Terry Goddard in the Secretary of State's race; Republican Diane Douglas won a narrow victory over Democrat David Garcia in the Superintendent of Public Instruction race; and the Republican slate of Doug Little and Tom Forese overcame Democrats Sandra Kennedy and Jim Holway for two seats on the Arizona Corporation Commission.
• It appears as though Democrats have succeeded in their goal of ousting Republican Ethan Orr in the swing Legislative District 9, which includes the Catalina Foothills, Casas Adobes area and north-central Tucson. State Rep. Victoria Steele was cruising to victory and as of Tuesday evening, political newcomer and trauma doctor Randy Friese was leading Orr by 123 votes in the race for the second seat.
Friese called himself "optimistic" on Monday.
"As many predicted, the LD 9 house race is very close," Friese said via email. "I trust the election process and will continue to wait patiently as the Pima County Recorder's Office and the Pima County Elections Department continue the outstanding job they have been doing over the past several days since the election."
Orr said on Monday that he was waiting to see how the final provisional vote count went. But he added that whether he won or lost, he would remain engaged in the legislative process and would try to work with lawmakers to get bills passed.
"I ran because I was part of this community and whether I win or lose, I will still work on behalf of the community," Orr said. "This is my home and I plan to continue to make this a better place."
• The biggest Election Day surprise may be Republican John Christopher Ackerley's defeat of Democratic state Rep. Demion Clinco in the race for two House seats in Legislative District 2, which includes southern parts of Tucson, Green Valley, Sahuarita and Nogales.
Ackerley led Clinco by 2,508 votes as of Tuesday night in a district that is 40 percent Democratic, 25 percent Republican and 35 percent independent.
• After a nine-candidate scuffle, the two current incumbents—Adelita Grijalva and Michael Hicks—are both heading back to the Tucson Unified School District Board.
• Nearly 59 percent of Pima County voters approved Prop 415, which will allow the county to borrow as much as $22 million to building a new animal-control center.