How many Republican voters in Maricopa County chose Katie Hobbs over Kari Lake?
When Kari Lake lost the Arizona governor's race in November, political experts generally agreed it was because she alienated Republican-leaning voters. A new analysis puts hard numbers on that phenomenon, showing Maricopa County voters who backed GOP candidates in less prominent races shunned Lake.
Those decisions made a profound difference: Democrat Katie Hobbs picked up the support of 33,000 Maricopa County voters who cast ballots for Republicans in six down-ballot races, such as state treasurer and county attorney. Adding to Lake's deficit were another nearly 6,000 Republican-leaning voters who opted to skip the race altogether or wrote in a candidate, the analysis found.
If those voters had stuck with the GOP ticket, Lake would have won. She lost by 17,117 votes statewide.
“She just ran a terrible campaign," said Benny White, one of the authors of the study that analyzed voting patterns in the Nov. 8 general election.
"It doesn't help to call Republicans RINOs," said White, himself a Republican.
The GOP candidates for U.S. Senate, secretary of state and attorney general also saw a similar drop off in support, although to differing degrees.
Along with White, two other election data experts conducted the analysis. The trio also conduced analyses during the Arizona Senate's 2021 review of the 2020 election in Maricopa County.
The numbers show that while Lake claims she lost because of printer problems or other issues in Maricopa County, she could have won had she not turned off voters in the state's most populous county who backed a host of other Republican candidates.
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'Disaffected voters' made difference in other races
The same dynamic of voters rejecting candidates who ran on Trump's Make America Great Again platform played out with most of the other statewide races, from U.S. Senate to state Attorney General, although to different degrees.
Republican Mark Finchem, the Trump-endorsed candidate for secretary of state, saw the biggest defection of Maricopa County voters who generally favored Republican candidates: nearly 74,000.
If Finchem had held on to those voters, he still would have lost, because his statewide margin of defeat was 120,000. But the numbers strengthened Democrat Adrian Fontes' lead; he attracted 86% of the Republican-leaning voters who rejected Finchem. The remaining 14% of voters either skipped the race or wrote in a candidate.
The voters who crossed over from a steady Republican voting pattern and either cast ballots for Democrats or skipped the race are what Larry Moore calls "disaffected voters."
Moore is another of the authors of the study and the retired founder of Clear Ballot, a company that uses technology to help speed up returns and ensure accuracy while providing transparency in operations.
"The people who left the Republican party because of the MAGA candidates really decided the election," Moore said. That was apparent to many in the aftermath of the November election, but the analysis that he, White and partner Tim Halvorsen produced provides the data to back up those gut intuitions.
The three, who dub themselves the "Audit Guys," built their database on the cast vote record, election data that shows the number of votes cast and the precincts where those votes came from, then compared it with voter registration numbers.
"The conclusion that can be drawn from this data and the various analytical comments is that the election was conducted legally and the results are correct," they concluded.
They posted their work on the website they used to share information about their review of the state Senate's review of the 2020 presidential election results in Maricopa County.
Their goal, they wrote, was to provide detailed information for the media, the public, attorneys and judges involved with the litigation that came in the wake of November's election.
Phenomenon affected attorney general, senate races
Count John O'Mara among the ranks of these so-called disaffected voters.
A lifelong Republican who voted for Trump in 2016, O'Mara said he was beyond fed up with the Trump era and MAGA candidates.
“I do not want to support any candidate that loves his party more than his country," O'Mara said, adding he voted for more Democrats in 2022 than he previously had in his entire life.
His rule was simple: If the candidate got Trump's endorsement, he was voting for their opponent.
O'Mara said he contacted Abe Hamadeh to see if he would prosecute the Arizona Republicans who falsely presented themselves as the rightful Arizona presidential electors in the 2020 election. When the GOP attorney general candidate didn't answer, O'Mara marked his ballot for Democrat Kris Mayes.
The attorney general race had the slimmest margin of the statewide races, with Mayes eking out a win by 280 votes statewide.
But the data analysis showed Mayes picked up 33,110 votes from Republican-leaning voters in Maricopa County, providing her with an important buffer against the votes that Hamadeh garnered outside the metro area.
In the U.S. Senate race, incumbent Sen. Mark Kelly netted 47,727 votes from Republican-leaning voters who chose to not cast ballots for Republican Blake Masters.
The crossover voting went both ways, with Republicans picking up votes from people who otherwise were voting for Democrats. But those gains were much smaller.
For example, Lake picked up 5,953 votes from Democrat-leaning voters, compared to the 33,041 votes that Hobbs garnered from GOP supporters.
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Will trend against MAGA candidates continue in 2024?
Moore looks at the data and sees the demise of the MAGA brand, not just in Arizona, where all of the high-profile Trump-endorsed candidates lost, but across the country.
White isn't as certain. He suspects the next election will not bode well for MAGA candidates. But, he added, a lot will happen between now and November 2024.
As for O'Mara, his hope is the 2022 results have a lasting impact.
“I’m hoping that Kari Lake's and Mark Finchem's and Abe Hamadeh's tendency to absolutely take this to the absurd will destroy them," he said.
"How much water do you have to pour on the fire before it’s out?”
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @maryjpitzl.
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