Fontes Concedes, Republican Stephen Richer Will Be Next Maricopa County Recorder

Fontes chillin' at Jobot on Election Day, November 3, 2020.
Fontes chillin' at Jobot on Election Day, November 3, 2020. David Hudnall
Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes has conceded to Republican challenger Stephen Richer, who currently leads Fontes by over 3,000 votes in their race.

Fontes led Richer on Election Night, but like many other local Democrats, his advantage gradually eroded as more votes were counted, the result of Democrats' strong performance in the early voting turnout numbers.

Richer eventually crept ahead of Fontes earlier this week, and as of the morning of November 12, Fontes trailed Richer by 3,323 votes with less than 20,000 votes left to count in Maricopa County, according to a recent estimate from election officials.

Around 9:45 a.m., Fontes posted to Twitter that he was conceding the race.

"I’ve called @Richer4Recorder to congratulate him, and will be welcoming Maricopa’s 30th Recorder with a personal tour of our facilities next week. #ProtectDemocracy," Fontes wrote.

Richer did not respond to New Times' request for comment. But a few hours after Fontes publicly conceded the race, Richer also acknowledged the gesture on Twitter.

"Thanks to @Adrian_Fontes for his kind and professional phone call. And thanks for the 4 yrs of hard work he put in. #ProtectDemocracy," he wrote. "I thought I lost this election on Tue. night. It was gut-wrenching and is more than enough to deal with. I'm sure Adrian is feeling something similar, so please, even if you didn't support him, be kind to @Adrian_Fontes these next few weeks as he helps me transition."

Fontes has served as recorder since 2016, when he ousted longtime Republican incumbent Helen Purcell. He vowed to increase voter access and restore public confidence in the office after Purcell was criticized for her handling of Election Day voting, which resulted in hours-long waits at the polls during Arizona's Presidential Preference Election in March 2016.

While in office, Fontes implemented a number of changes, including the "vote center" model, where voters could cast their ballots at any of dozens of locations as opposed to one specified polling place. He also boosted cybersecurity efforts. His tenure wasn't without controversy. During the 2018 midterm elections, technical issues shut down dozens of voting machines while voters were again left waiting in long lines at some polling locations. Richer's campaign alleged that some of Fontes' changes were illegal. The campaign's slogan was to make the office of the Maricopa County Recorder "boring again," and Richer criticized Fontes for making the office too partisan.

Still, last week's election process went off smoothly, despite a surge in mail-in voting during the COVID-19 pandemic, garnering Fontes praise.

Reached by phone, Fontes told New Times that he feels "great."

"What other way would one feel, given as proud as I am of the work we’ve done?" he said. "I don’t think the campaign is as important as the work that we did."

"We built a system that is second to none nationally, and I did my job," Fontes added. "I got elected to fix a broken system, and it worked magnificently well."

Asked if he had any initial thoughts on what he will do next, Fontes curtly said: "No."
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Josh Kelety is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. Previously, he worked as a reporter for the Inlander and Seattle Weekly.
Contact: Josh Kelety