Anyone who’s ever wondered whether every vote is important should contact Arizona’s Attorney General-elect Kris Mayes.
On Friday, we learned that a recount affirmed her victory by a razor-thin 280 votes, one tenth of one percent of the total 2.5 million ballots cast. She defeated Republican election-denier Abe Hamadeh.
A state attorney general is the “people’s lawyer.” An AG’s power is immense and has national reach, as one of us (Harshbarger) can testify.
Here are four reasons the Arizona result matters to the country.
1. A shut-out for election deniers seeking state-wide office in a 2024 battleground
Hamadeh was 2022’s last “Big Lie”-er to lose, as so many others did across the country.
Campaigning, he had tweeted, “[T]o those who worked to rob President Trump in the rigged 2020 election: Your day of reckoning is coming when I take office January 2023.”
Good news: He won’t be wasting citizens’ money searching for ghosts of “rigged elections” past.
Hamadeh wasn’t alone in losing. Trump-backed election-deniers also lost in Arizona’s other statewide races. Democrat Katie Hobbs defeated gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake. Conspiracy theorist Mark Finchem lost as secretary of state to Democrat Adrian Fontes. MAGA world’s Blake Masters lost his Senate bid to incumbent Mark Kelly.
The Arizona sweep by non-election deniers in Arizona matters for 2024. Arizona has become an important national battleground, having voted for Republican presidential candidates in 2008, 2012, and 2016, but having swung Democratic in 2020.
The governor certifies presidential elections, the secretary of state oversees the vote, and the Arizona attorney general runs an “election integrity unit” with prosecutorial power that we’ve seen misused in Florida. Hamadeh cited bogus conspiracy theories about election fraud in 2020.
By contrast, winner Kris Hayes urged voters expressed full “faith in our election officials.” A swing state having a chief legal officer who supports election results, whichever candidate wins, is crucial to our democracy.
2. Arizonans’ reproductive rights now have a protector
In 2022, the Arizona legislature authorized the prosecution of any abortion provider or abortion pill supplier if they did so “with intent thereby to procure the miscarriage of [a] woman” pregnant for more than 15 weeks. Hamadeh, labeling himself “pro-life,” said with respect to prosecuting abortion providers, that “[a]ny attorney general should be in the business to enforce the law.”
Mayes, on the other hand, pledged, “As Attorney General, I will not prosecute doctors, [physician assistants], nurses, midwives, doulas or pharmacists for providing, or a woman for receiving, reproductive services.”
She also strongly suggested that she would protect reproductive rights by challenging anti-abortion statutes as invalid under the Arizona constitution’s protection of the right to privacy.
3. Mayes’ win will safeguard voters’ rights
A state’s attorney general has enormous power in defending every citizen’s right to vote or seeking to undermine it. Mayes’ predecessor, Republican Mark Brnovich, was the lead petitioner in Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, the 2021 case in which the U.S. Supreme Court gutted Section 2 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which protects minority voters.
In addition, in 2022, Brnovich refused to defend Arizona’s laws authorizing the mail-in voting methods by which most Arizona voters cast their ballots.
Mayes, by contrast, campaigned in support of mail-in ballots and would prosecute individuals who harassed or threatened election workers. Her win is good for voting rights.
4. Mayes’ election is a victory for equality and against hate.
Mayes is Arizona’s first LGBTQ attorney general, following in the footsteps of attorneys general Dana Nessel in Michigan and (now Governor-elect) Maura Healy in Massachusetts.
The fact that Mayes’ victory was closer than that of her Democratic ticket-mates may reflect residual bias, but it represents another state’s growing majority rejecting prejudice, and that trend is far more significant.
Hamadeh’s defeat is another such sign. In 2007, he posted this message on a political website: “If you think Jews aren’t big in America (2%), how come 56% of them are CEOs?”
While he was only 16 then, he was 31 and a candidate in June 2022 when he tweeted, “[George] Soros is on the cusp of dominating Arizona.” Far-right conspiracy theorists’ repeated references to Soros, a billionaire philanthropist, have become dog whistles for antisemitism.
Mayes called upon Hamadeh to apologize to Jewish Americans, and he refused. His defeat is reassuring for those who believe in equal treatment for all.
If you are among them, never doubt the importance of your vote.