Democratic U.S. Rep. Ron Barber’s narrow lead shrank to nearly nothing late Tuesday night, with votes still to be counted in precincts he lost in 2012.
Barber led Republican challenger Martha McSally by fewer than 300 votes — a virtually 50-50 split — with no Election Day ballots tallied yet in Cochise County, a strongly conservative area.
The race echoes his last match with McSally, in 2012, when the two were separated by less than a percentage point, but with the outcome potentially falling in Republicans’ favor this time.
In Arizona’s two other competitive U.S. House districts, Democrats successfully defended one and maintained a narrow lead in another. The potential victories were rare bright spots for Democrats against a backdrop of nationwide gains by Republicans who appealed to midterm voters weary of the president’s party.
Rep. Kyrsten Sinema won, according to the Associated Press. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick was in a tight contest with Republican opponent Andy Tobin.
Barber sounded a confident tone at his Tucson election party, while McSally urged supporters to be patient until the ballots were counted.
Kirkpatrick was a no-show at the Flagstaff event she was scheduled to attend. Her campaign said she would not be available for interviews until Wednesday. Tobin said he was holding out hope and was proud of the campaign. Observers, however, saw good signs for Kirkpatrick.
Kirkpatrick’s margin is likely to grow when counts from Democratic-leaning precincts are added, said GOP consultant Brian Murray, who worked campaigns in the 1st Congressional District. Among those is the Navajo Nation, which Democrats worked hard to turn out.
“Those numbers are probably going to break significantly for Kirkpatrick and pad the lead she has right now,” Murray said. “It’s a tight race, but it’s certainly trending Kirkpatrick.”