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Hundreds of thousands of votes are still left to be counted. Here’s how the Arizona Republic ended up at that number.
Thomas Hawthorne, The Republic | azcentral.com

It was Election Night in 2012 and Kyrsten Sinema was sequestered in a hotel room with a dozen or so supporters, friends and campaign staffers in a makeshift war room.

It was her first bid for Congress and her campaign didn’t have the money to splurge on a business suite. The bed ate up most of the floor space, strewn with papers, charging cords and laptop computers.

The early election results dropped at 8 p.m. that election night six years ago. She was ahead of Republican challenger Vernon Parker, just not as much as she had hoped to be in the race for Arizona’s 9th Congressional District, a newly created seat evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats.

Sinema buzzed with nervous energy and settled in for a roller-coaster week. 

Her lead began to grow over the course of the few days, as the Maricopa County Recorder’s counting of so-called late early ballots began to post, recalled her former campaign manager, Rodd McLeod. 

MORE:  Here’s why there are still so many votes left to count in Arizona

She threw a party for the volunteers and staff who worked on her campaign and worked the phones, thanking donors and supporters. 

“She understands there’s a big job to do counting these ballots,” McLeod said. “You’re still working, and you’re observing the ballot count, but you’re waiting. You’re letting people know you appreciate their hard work.”

On the Friday after Election Day, she got a concession call from her GOP rival. 

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Panelists from “The Gaggle” examine the November election results and give you the big takeaways from this election cycle.
William Flannigan and Thomas Hawthorne, Arizona Republic

Suspense and uncertainty now hangs over the U.S. Senate race, where Sinema and Republican candidate Martha McSally await the 5 p.m. posting of updated ballot results by elections officials.

It will be the first time since Election Night that the results have been substantively updated. 

At mid-day Thursday, McSally stood at 856,848 votes, or 49.37 percent, while Sinema had 839,775 or 48.39 percent. Green Party candidate Angela Green earned 38,978 votes, representing 2.25 percent of the votes posted so far.

It’s too soon to know who will ultimately prevail. 

READ:  The climate was ripe for a blue wave, but Arizona appears still solid red

The candidates and their Democratic and Republican allies have built out sophisticated models that analyze the geography of outstanding ballots, past voting behaviors, and voters’ party affiliations.

But they are riding the same emotional roller-coaster as the estimated 2.3 million voters who will have decided the race.

MORE: ‘Gaggle’ podcast: Behind the scenes at The Arizona Republic on Election Day

And then there’s the legal challenges, which could prolong the result for weeks as either side works to disqualify or add voters to the rolls in the event the final margin reaches below 5,000 or so.

Already, Republicans were in court Thursday to dispute a practice used by certain counties to verify mismatched signatures of early ballots. 

McSally, a former combat pilot in the U.S. Air Force, has also been here before. 

In 2012, she lost a primary election against former Marine Jesse Kelly to run in a special election to fill the remaining months of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ term in Congress. 

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Two years later, she edged out Democratic Rep. Ron Barber by only 167 votes to win the Tucson-based 2nd Congressional District. 

But only after a recount and legal fights, which she has frequently talked about on the campaign trail in her race for the Senate. 

That race, like the Senate race, was a key battleground for outside spending groups and blistering attack ads against both candidates.

In the end, McSally unseated Barber by a razor-thin 167 votes out of an estimated 220,000 cast. 

Follow the reporter on Twitter and Facebook and contact her at yvonne.wingett@arizonarepublic.com.

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