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AP calls Senate race for Democrat Krysten Sinema, McSally tweets concession

AP calls Senate race for Democrat Krysten Sinema, McSally tweets concession

The split between Sinema and Republican Martha McSally continued to increase Monday – Sinema now leads by just over 38,000 – as counties continue to verify and tabulate their mail-in ballots.

"Voting is a fundamental part of our democracy," Sen.-elect Sinema said during her acceptance speech at a Scottsdale hotel on Monday evening. "Our country is at its best when everyone is engaged and everyone's voice is heard. And that work isn't over."

She cited the example of John McCain, who died in August. She said she would try to follow his example and “put country before party.”

Sinema ran as a nonpartisan centrist. McSally unsuccessfully tried to paint her as a liberal Democrat.

"He taught us to assume the best in others, to seek compromise instead of sewing division, and to always put country ahead of party,” Sinema said. "It won’t be easy, and it won’t happen overnight, but we can work together to meet the challenges our country faces. We can do this differently. For our country, for our future, for Sen. McCain, and for each other I think we must.”

Although McSally was ahead when Election Day drew to a close last week, mail-in ballots, mostly from Maricopa County, gave Sinema the lead on Thursday -- a lead that increases bit by bit as the counting continues.

With the candidates separated by a little more than 1.7 percent, the race was considered too close to call -- until moments before 5:45 p.m. Monday.

That's when the AP made its determination on one the most closely watched races in the entire country.

"I wish her success. I’m grateful to all those who supported me in this journey," the tweet reads. "I’m inspired by Arizonans’ spirit and our state’s best days are ahead of us."

"We both ran for the Senate for the same reason -- because we want what's best for Arizona and for our country," Sinema said during her victory speech.

[CHECK: Latest election results]

Sen. Jeff Flake, who Sinema is replacing, tweeted out his congratulations as well.

"Congratulations to @kyrstensinema on a race well run, and won," he tweeted. "You'll be great."

Not only is Sinema the first woman to represent Arizona in the Senate, she's the first Democrat elected to the Senate since Dennis DeConcici was elected in 1977. He served in the seat Sinema will be filling until 1995.

"We can embrace difference while seeking common ground," Sinema said, denouncing what she described as "fear and party politics."

"Arizona rejected what has become far too common in our country -- name-calling, petty personal attacks, and doing and saying whatever to takes just to get elected," she said. "It's dangerous and lessens who we are as a country. But Arizona proved that there is a better way forward."

It's not clear if President Donald Trump, a staunch and vocal McSally supporter, will comment on the outcome of the hotly contested race.

He weighed in via Twitter last week on the ongoing ballot counting and the fervor over mail-in ballots.

Ballot counting, however, is still ongoing.

Recorders in Arizona's 15 counties have to continue verifying signatures on mail-in ballots until 5 p.m. on Wednesday to ensure every vote is counted.

That mandate is the result of a settlement in court after the Republican Party in Maricopa, Apache, Navajo and Yuma counties sued the secretary of state and all of the county recorders over the handling of those mail-in ballots. The process varies from county to county.

The settlement was meant to level the playing field and make sure ballots from all counties are tabulated.

The bulk of the ballots that remain to be counted now are called "late earlies." They are the mail-in ballots that arrived on Election Day or were dropped off at a polling place on Election Day.

The process to verify a mail-in ballot is involved, more so if there an issue.

"If you drop it off on Election Day, that process can't automatically just happen before the end of the day. We keep doing that process with that Election Day earlies, or what we call 'late earlies,' they're still good, we want to count them but we want to be thorough so that's what takes a little time," Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes explained.

Fontes tweeted a graphic explaining the process Monday, including a link for voters to see if their mail-in ballots have been counted.

[WAS YOUR MAIL-IN BALLOT COUNTED? Check your ballot status here]

If there is a problem with a mail-in ballot, the recorder tried to contact the voter to "cure" it. Some counties continued this process after Election Day; some did not.

With Friday's settlement, all counties have to keep trying to cure those problematic ballots and they all have the same deadline to do it.

The Sinema-McSally race was not the only one to see a change with the late earlies.

In the race for secretary of state, Democrat Katie Hobbs has made up a significant deficit -- so significant that The Associated Press called the race for Republican Steve Gaynor on Election Day -- and has now taken a 5,600-vote lead.

Despite AP's pronouncement, Hobbs has not conceded. Her campaign said it was too close to call.

The superintendent of public instruction race, which has also seen a flip from Republican Frank Riggs to Democrat Kathy Hoffman, has been too close to call since Election Day.

The AP called it for Hoffman not long after naming Sinema a senator-elect.

Hoffman declared victory via Twitter Sunday evening, saying, "This victory is not just about me or my campaign. ... We did this together. ... Words cannot express my gratitude."

But it's not over yet.

Fontes tweeted with Monday's update that there are still about 143,000 ballots to process in Maricopa County and plans another update Tuesday.

Last week, Fontes explains that the equipment has a maximum capacity for about 75,000 ballots a day. Teams of two -- each person from a different political party -- are working to get through them.

Ballot counting in Maricopa County is always a long process, but with so many big races too close to call, people are noticing the lag more.

In addition, the 2018 midterm was a big one in terms of turnout.

According to the website of the Secretary of State's Office, more than 2.2 million ballots have been counted as of Monday evening.

Garrett Archer tweeted that the state has officially surpassed the 60 percent mark.

That's more on par with a presidential election year than a midterm.

Archer also tweeted that Maricopa County is not the only county that still has ballots to process.

The majority of them are in Maricopa County, but there are several thousand outstanding votes that will be coming in from Cochise, Coconino, La Paz, Pima and Pinal counties.

Political pundits have not been entirely surprised by what we're seeing with the late earlies.

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