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Campaign Report — Arizona’s bumpy road to certifying 2022 election

Associated Press/Matt York

Welcome to The Hill’s Campaign Report, tracking all things related to the 2022 midterm elections. You can expect this newsletter in your inbox every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday as we make sense of this year’s elections and look ahead to 2024.

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The county roiling Arizona’s election certification 

As Arizona is preparing to certify its 2022 midterm elections next week, one county is threatening to disrupt the statewide canvass and wreak havoc on a key House race by refusing to certify their election results on time.  

Cochise County skirted a Monday deadline to certify their election results, the second time they delayed certification. All counties had by Monday to certify their results ahead of a Dec. 5 statewide canvass deadline, but Cochise County voted 2-1 to delay certification until Friday.  

As our Caroline Vakil writes, that’s prompted two parties, including Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D), who won her gubernatorial race against Republican Kari Lake, to sue the Cochise County Board of Supervisors. Lawyers for Hobbs said in their lawsuit that the statewide canvass can only be delayed as late as Dec. 8 and are asking for the board of supervisors to be compelled to certify the election by Thursday.  

Key quote: “This should be a slam-dunk case,” Jared Davidson, an attorney with Protect Democracy, told Caroline.  

“The board’s duties to certify are paradigmatic examples of a nondiscretionary duty, and the special action procedure is designed specifically to seek relief from government officials to act in a way where statutes give them no discretion whatsoever,” he continued. “So I fully expect that lawsuit to be successful because there can really be no serious question that what the board is doing here is an abject failure to abide by their explicit statutory duties.” 

Why it matters: Certifying the county’s elections are important for two reasons: As Hobbs’ lawsuit notes, several recounts can’t be performed, including in the attorney general’s race, until the statewide canvass is completed. 

But certifying the results is also important because if the county still refuses to do so, Hobbs’ lawyers said in their lawsuit that the top elections official would be required to perform the statewide canvass without Cochise County’s votes, which could affect the election results in Arizona’s 6th Congressional District. 

Republican Juan Ciscomani has already been projected the winner against Kirsten Engel, where Ciscomani received huge support from Cochise County. But it’s possible that his win could be reversed without those votes.

Chatter over alternative to Biden simmers down 

While Democrats early on during the midterm cycle braced for a red wave in the House and Senate, the November midterms delivered anything but – tamping down Democratic anxieties over the party’s next two-year future and over swirling questions among progressives over finding a better alternative to President Biden in 2024. 

As our Hanna Trudo writes, the midterm cycle has helped solidify Biden’s standing among progressives and batter away talk – at least for now – over alternatives to replace him as Democrats retained their Senate majority and lost the House majority by a narrow margin – all against the backdrop of Biden’s lagging approval ratings and historical precedent against the party. 

Some of the clearest signals that progressives are comfortable with another Biden bid have come from Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.). 

“I think what the midterms did accomplish is they silenced that,” Cooper Teboe, a progressive Democratic strategist and adviser to a pro-Biden political action committee, told Hanna, referring to talk of a Biden alternative. “Even if Biden was running for reelection, I think we could have seen a few people run against him. But now, I think he’s got a clear field.”  

At the same time, Democrats still have to contend with a divided Congress, which will make passing legislation more difficult and impact what candidates will be able to run on in 2024, and as voters grapple with key issues like decades-high inflation.

2024 GOP chatter grows 

Meanwhile, in the GOP, Republicans who have been widely floated as 2024 presidential candidates have further signaled moves, implicitly or not, around a possible announcement. Former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley said during an event at Clemson University on Tuesday that she’d consider a bid and possible next steps during the holidays. 

And while Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has not formally announced a bid, HarperCollins Publishers’s Broadside Books is publishing a new memoir of his – a move often seen as preceding a presidential announcement. Several others, including Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), former Vice President Pence and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, have also been or are planning their own book circuits. 

That all comes against the backdrop of an already announced White House bid by former President Trump. But Republicans have already signaled that they’re not necessarily sold on a 2024 Trump White House bid, and former Trump White House officials like Pence have felt increasingly comfortable differing themselves from the former president. 

“I don’t think that’s the right question,” Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) said earlier this month in response to a reporter regarding whether she’d back the former president. 

“I think the question is who is the current leader of the Republican Party. Oh, I know who it is: Ron DeSantis.” 

That’s it for today. Thanks for reading and check out The Hill’s Campaign page for the latest news and coverage. See you next tomorrow. 

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