State Schools Superintendent Tom Horne declared victory Saturday night over former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, his rival in the GOP primary for state Attorney General. This, after today's count left Horne 853 votes in front, with only around 4,500 votes left to tabulate across Arizona, according to the Secretary of State's office.
"It's an absolute certainty now," said Horne when I called him not long after the latest results came in at 8:13 p.m."The remainder should be split evenly."
Horne said he had yet to hear from Thomas, but that it didn't matter if Thomas wanted to wait for Tuesday, when all counties in Arizona are required to report.
"It's done," he told me. "It's over."
Indeed, Maricopa County Elections issued a press release stating that it had counted the last of its ballots by Saturday night. All that's left are the official results for write-in candidates.
SOS spokesman Matt Benson said that Pima County is done as well, with only around 4,500 ballots remaining uncounted across the state.
Horne expressed "a huge sense of relief" over the near-final results, explaining that his anxiety levels have been waxing and waning with each new release of information from the SOS.
Although Thomas began election night ahead, the tide reversed early Wednesday morning, and Thomas never regained the lead, though he cut it to within a few hundred votes at times.
After Horne went up 1,073 by the end of Thursday, Thomas considered dropping out of the race on Friday. But when Horne's advantage was cut by more than half as the counting went on, Thomas declined to concede until all the ballots were counted.
Horne's already focusing on the winner of the Democratic primary for AG, Felecia Rotellini. He said he feels confident that he will beat the former state banking czar, who served under Democratic Governor Janet Napolitano.
"It's better to be a Republican than a Democrat right now," he explained.
The reasons? Immigration and SB 1070.
"I supported it, she opposed it," Horne said of Rotellini's criticism of 1070, even though she has promised to defend it if elected.
He said he would fight for SB 1070 if he becomes Attorney General, and that he would take over the case from the firm of Snell & Wilmer, now defending it in federal court against its various challenges.
"I would expect to win that in the Supreme Court," Horne said of challenges to the law. "We don't need to spend all that money on private attorneys."
He offered as proof that he could prevail, a 2009 win before the U.S. Supreme Court in Horne vs. Flores, regarding Arizona's funding of English-learning programs. The Supreme Court sent that case back to the 9th Circuit Court. Before that, a U.S. district court judge had threatened Arizona with $2 million a day in fines if the state did not comply.
Horne along with GOP legislators led the charge seeking a Supreme Court review of the case.
Horne is correct to note that immigration and SB 1070 are the defining issues of this campaign season in Arizona. Also, it's obvious that Horne will attempt to hang Rotellini with her anti-SB 1070 stance.
The challenge for Rotellini will be to change the game while not looking "soft" on immigration. It's a tough dance for Arizona Dems, one current Attorney General and Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Terry Goddard has so far botched.