By Jeremy Beren / NewsBreak Pinal County, AZ
(Florence, Ariz.) — The embattled Pinal County Elections Department on Wednesday announced it had completed tabulating and compiling the results from the Aug. 2 primary and municipal elections.
Pinal officials have been under scrutiny and endured widespread criticism for their handling of the 2022 primaries, beginning with a design error that affected more than 60,000 early voting mail-in ballots. The issues continued through election day, with more than 20 of the county's precincts running low on paper ballots or exhausting their supply entirely.
The problems saw a shakeup take place within the Elections Department. Director David Frisk was removed, and County Recorder Virginia Ross took his place. A statement released by the county last Friday claimed Ross "immediately" identified a technical issue that prevented more than 10,000 early ballots from being processed properly.
Candidates that former president Donald Trump endorsed won Pinal County by several percentage points.
Venture capitalist Blake Masters, who has also received support from white supremacists, fended off challenges from millionaire Jim Lamon and Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich to clinch the Republican primary for the United States Senate. He will face sitting Democrat Mark Kelly in the November election after securing 43 percent of the vote in Pinal.
Former news anchor Kari Lake trailed wealthy businesswoman Karrin Taylor Robson for a time, but Lake eventually garnered 50.5 percent of the vote in Pinal on her way to winning the Republican gubernatorial primary. Democrat Katie Hobbs, the current Secretary of State, received nearly 71 percent of the vote in Pinal and will be Lake's challenger in November. Hobbs has had to fend off accusations of encouraging a toxic workplace, and the governor's race is being regarded as a toss-up.
U.S. Representative Tom O'Halleran, whose district encompasses Pinal County, did not face a challenger in the Democratic primary. In November, O'Halleran's Republican opponent in Congressional District 2 will be Trump-endorsed Eli Crane, a former Navy SEAL who took 40.6 percent of the vote in Pinal.
Crane won out in a crowded field that included State Representative Walt Blackman, as well as online message board administrator Ron Watkins — whom some believe is the titular "Q" of the QAnon conspiracy theory.
The programming mistake that impacted thousands of early voters appeared on ballots mailed to seven communities: Casa Grande, Eloy, Maricopa, Mammoth, Superior, and the portions of Apache Junction and Queen Creek that are in Pinal County.
Voters in these municipalities were mailed supplemental ballots, after the original ballots either listed incorrect races or omitted the correct races entirely. They had the option to fill out and return the new ballot, or wait until election day to make their choices.
In Eloy, mayor Micah Powell (61.7%) defeated challenger Richard Horton (38.0%), while fellow incumbent Chip Wilson claimed 78% of the vote in the Apache Junction mayoral contest. Julia Wheatley (Queen Creek), Mila Besich (Superior), and Craig McFarland (Casa Grande) all ran unopposed in their mayoral races, with Wheatley winning for the first time.
Elsewhere, Matt Herman (23.3% of the vote) and former police officer Bob Huddleston (23.1%) received the most votes in the five-way race for Casa Grande City Council. In Maricopa, Rich Vitiello, Henry Wade, and Vice Mayor Vincent Manfredi garnered pluralities in their bids to remain on the City Council.
A tight race saw Dawn Oliphant secure the most votes in her bid to clinch another term on the Queen Creek Town Council. Newcomers Matt McWilliams and Bryan McClure, a local business owner, received the next-highest vote tallies as the Council prepares for turnover in 2023.
County officials estimate the total municipal turnout was just under 23 percent, with 26,295 ballots cast. At around 28 percent, voter turnout for the primaries was slightly higher according to the county's statistics, with 77,246 ballots cast.