Automatic Recount For Attorney General, Superintendent, State Representative Races

Automatic Recount For Attorney General, Superintendent, State Representative Races

By Corinne Murdock |

On Monday, the remaining outstanding ballots were counted, totaling nearly 2.6 million votes cast. Next Monday is the deadline for counties to canvass and submit results to the secretary of state’s office.

An automatic recount will occur for the attorney general, superintendent of public instruction, and state representative for District 13 races. The recount will begin after the state certifies the election on December 5. 

In the attorney general race, Kris Mayes (D) led by 510 votes over Abraham Hamadeh (R) — a .02 percent difference, well within the .5 percent required. Both Mayes and Hamadeh expressed confidence that the recount would pan out in their favor.

Hamadeh pinpointed Maricopa County’s Election Day issues as the reason for his belief that the vote counts would flip in his favor. 

In the superintendent’s race, Tom Horne (R) overcame incumbent Kathy Hoffman (D) narrowly with 50 to 49 percent of the vote, or 8,968 votes. That’s a margin of nearly .36 percent, which triggers the automatic recount. Hoffman conceded the race last week.

In the District 13 race, State Representative Jennifer Pawlik (D) is likely to secure one of the seats with 35 percent of the vote, compared to the other two contenders’ respective 32 percent. The automatic recount will likely determine which of the two Republican candidates, Liz Harris or Julie Willoughby, will earn the second seat. Harris leads by 270 votes: nearly .31 percent.

A recount doesn’t look to be in the cards for the much-contested governor’s race. Katie Hobbs (D) ended with a lead of 17,116 over Kari Lake (R): an advantage of nearly .67 percent. That’s outside the margin needed for an automatic recount. 

Lake is fundraising currently to file a lawsuit. She has refused to concede the race, citing Maricopa County’s Election Day issues such as faulty ballot printer settings resulting in widespread tabulator failures. The attorney general’s office is probing the county’s conduct for potential violation of state law. 

In the secretary of state race, Adrian Fontes (D) secured 52 percent of the vote compared to Mark Finchem (R): a margin of 120,207 votes. Incumbent Kimberly Yee (R) fended her seat as state treasurer with nearly 56 percent of the vote over Martín Quezada (D): a margin of 283,099 votes. 

Paul Marsh (R) ran uncontested as state mine inspector. Kevin Thompson (R) and Nicholas Myers (R) were elected to the two corporation commissioner seats, ousting incumbent Sandra Kennedy (D) and Lauren Kuby (D).

At the federal level, incumbent Senator Mark Kelly (D) beat Blake Masters (R) by a 125,718 vote margin: 51 to 46 percent of the vote. 

Incumbent Representatives David Schweikert (R) and Andy Biggs (R) fended off their respective challenges from Jevin Hodge (D) and Javier Garcia Ramos in the District 1 and 5 races. Schweikert pulled a 3,195 vote lead (50 to 49 percent), while Biggs pulled 62,221 more votes (56 to 37 percent).

Eli Crane (R) pulled off an upset in the District 2 race, earning 25,019 more votes than incumbent Tom O’Halleran (D): nearly 54 percent of the vote to 46 percent.

Democratic incumbent Representatives Ruben Gallego, Greg Stanton, and Raúl Grijalva fended off their respective challenges from Republicans Jeff Nelson Zink, Kelly Cooper, and Luis Pozzolo in the District 3, 4, and 7 races. Gallego led by 76,124 votes (77 to 23 percent), Stanton led by 32,420 votes (56 to 44 percent), and Grijalva led by 56,974 votes (64 to 35 percent).

Juan Ciscomani (R) prevailed over Kirsten Engel (D) in the District 6 race, earning 5,232 more votes: 50 to 49 percent of the vote.

Republican incumbent Representatives Debbie Lesko and Paul Gosar were unchallenged in their District 8 and 9 races.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

ASU, NAU, UArizona Presidents Salaries, Bonuses Total Over $2.4 Million

ASU, NAU, UArizona Presidents Salaries, Bonuses Total Over $2.4 Million

By Corinne Murdock |

Last week, the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR) approved over $2.4 million in salaries and bonuses for all three presidents of the state’s public universities — making them among the highest paid public employees in the state.

Arizona State University (ASU) President Michael Crow received a pay raise of over $38,500, bringing his base salary to over $809,800, as well as a $90,000 bonus. Crow also receives perks: housing, a vehicle allowance, and retirement contributions. ABOR extended his contract through June 2027. 

Northern Arizona University (NAU) President José Luis Cruz Rivera received the largest pay raise of $61,800, bringing his base salary to $576,800, as well as a $75,000 bonus. ABOR extended his contract through June 2025. 

University of Arizona (UArizona) President Robert Robbins received a pay raise of over $37,700, bringing his base salary to over $792,200. Robbins also received a $75,000 bonus. ABOR extended his contract through June 2025 as well. 

The three presidents’ bonuses were contingent on the achievement of various at-risk goals. 

Crow met all three at-risk goals: a strategy to address educational gaps in the state, a plan for the launch of at least one of the five Future Science and Technology Centers in the Fulton Schools of Engineering, and clarifying and documenting the expectations for relationships among ASU’s Teaching, Learning, and Knowledge Enterprises.

For Crow, an additional $150,000 in at-risk compensation goals were proposed for next year, each worth $50,000 if met: design and launch a premium brand for ASU online; develop and launch a plan to move the three core brands of the W.P. Carey School of Business, the Fulton Schools of Engineering, and the Barrett Honors College into three global brands; and design and launch a new Health Futures Strategy that includes a holistic approach around health sciences and launch preparations for the Public Health Technology School. 

Crow also has five at-risk compensation goals through 2024 worth an additional $160,000. These goals will require Crow to demonstrate increased enrollment and student success in adaptive learning courses by offering over 15 courses, with an increase in overall course completion to over 80 percent; increase enrollment of Arizona students and number of graduates by over 10 percent; complete the design of the Global Futures Library with engagement of over 700 faculty members, as well as merge the three schools of the College of Global Futures; build and document enhanced regional collaboration in research; and demonstrate substantial expansion of ASU Digital Prep to at least 150 in-state schools, predominantly rural and underperforming schools.

Cruz Rivera also had three at-risk goals, which he met: a leadership team for NAU, restructured pricing and financial aid along with marketing and recruiting, and a set of goals and objectives to rebrand NAU.

For the upcoming year, Cruz Rivera has $135,000 in at-risk compensation goals aligned with the rebranding and restructuring efforts at NAU, each worth $45,000. Cruz Rivera must develop and implement a “New NAU System” to encompass in-person, online, and hybrid learning modalities, branch campuses, community college partnerships, and engagement with the state’s K-12 system. Cruz Rivera must also transform NAU Online, as well as increase enrollments and enhance career preparation opportunities.

Through 2024, Cruz Rivera is tasked with $120,000 in at-risk compensation goals, each worth $30,000. Cruz Rivera must expand the number of students from working-class families, increase overall graduation rates, and narrow completion gaps for working-class, first-generation, and minority groups; expand the Allied Health Programs and traditional NAU programs into Maricopa, Pima, and Yuma counties as well as distributed learning centers outside these three counties; and increase NAU profile, visibility, and programs for both Latino and Native American communities throughout the state and nationwide.

Robbins also met his three at-risk goals for this year: a new budget model that reduced college and department overhead costs by at least $10 million, a strategy to raise attainment in southern Arizona, and progress toward creating a Center for Advanced Immunology at the PBC.

In the coming year, Robbins faces $135,000 in at-risk compensation goals: secure at least $200 million in initial funding commitment from the state, local government, or private donors by next June for the Center for Advanced Molecular Immunotherapies; develop a plan to centralize responsibility and balance local authority in the university-wide administrative functional areas of Information Technology and Financial and Business Services by next June; and complete the transition of the UArizona Global Campus as an affiliated partner to its final stage under the full authority and oversight of UArizona by next June. 

Then, Robbins faces $120,000 in at-risk compensation goals through the end of 2024: increasing retention by 85.5 percent; leveraging the Washington office of UArizona to increase federal research funding by 10 percent; progressing toward enhancing student experience and outcomes of the UArizona Global Campus; implementing an Information Technology security governance framework; and coordinating a collaborative relationship with ASU and NAU that raises the research potential of the UArizona College of Medicine Phoenix. 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Average Thanksgiving Dinner Cost 20 Percent More Than Last Year

Average Thanksgiving Dinner Cost 20 Percent More Than Last Year

By Corinne Murdock |

A Thanksgiving dinner for 10 may cost about 20 percent more than it did last year — a difference of nearly $11. It is the most expensive that a Thanksgiving meal has been in at least 36 years. 

The annual American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) survey released on Wednesday revealed that classic Thanksgiving foods for a gathering of 10 would amount to $64.05. Last year, that same meal cost $53.31. 

The survey reviewed costs for a 16-pound turkey, 12 ounces of cranberries, three pounds of sweet potatoes, one-half pound each of carrots and celery, 16 ounces of green peas, two pie shells, 14 ounces of cube stuffing, 30 ounces of pumpkin pie mix, one gallon of milk, and one-half pint of whipping cream. 

Last year, a 16-pound turkey cost nearly $24 on average ($1.49 per pound). This year, that same turkey cost nearly $29 on average ($1.81 per pound). That $5 increase is the most significant of all the classic Thanksgiving foods, though the remainder of the other 10 groceries averaged an increase of 60 cents. 

Nothing declined in price; the grocery item with the least cost increase was the one-pound vegetable tray, at six cents. 

Thanksgiving meal prices declined from 2015 to 2020 before increasing last year. This past year’s increase is the steepest yet in the 36 years since the AFBF began its survey.

The USDA issued a memo on Wednesday as well with different estimates. They claimed that their administration undertook actions to slow inflation at grocery stores, some of which have been purportedly palpable. 

The USDA used a turkey hen instead of a tom for its comparison, and estimated that a large turkey hen would only cost two cents more per pound than last year.

Their estimates for costs of other staples were lower as well. 12 ounces of cranberries were $2.24, three pounds of sweet potatoes were $2.58, and a gallon of milk was $3.73. The USDA excluded pie ingredients, stuffing, and whipping cream from its estimates. 

The USDA blamed the avian influenza outbreak, Russia’s war on Ukraine, and the drought for the increasing costs of food. Despite the loss of over 8 million turkeys, the administration projected that there wouldn’t be a turkey shortage come Thanksgiving. 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

FTX CEO Gave $27 Million to Political Action Committee Based in Phoenix

FTX CEO Gave $27 Million to Political Action Committee Based in Phoenix

By Corinne Murdock |

A political action committee (PAC) based in Phoenix received $27 million from the CEO of FTX: the bankrupted cryptocurrency giant under investigation for fraud.

Not only did Protect Our Future PAC receive $27 million from FTX CEO Samuel Bankman-Fried — this PAC was the primary beneficiary of his contributions by far. The PAC treasurer is Dacey Montoya: a name that appears frequently throughout the Democratic dark money network. In the recent past, Montoya also chaired the Way to Lead PAC and Not Our Faith PAC, both organizations that received major funds from Democratic dark money funders like George Soros. 

According to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), Bankman-Fried’s millions came via four payments from February to June: $9 million on February 4, $4 million on March 15, $10 million on April 14, and $4 million on June 13. 

It appears that Montoya received a good cut of Bankman-Fried’s millions. The Money Wheel, Montoya’s consulting firm, received over $134,500 from February to early July from the Protect Our Future PAC. Protect Our Future and The Money Wheel share the same business address. Her consulting firm often gets paid from the PACs she oversees.

The PAC registered with the FEC in January of this year. Bankman-Fried’s millions account for 94 percent of the PAC’s revenue. Another $1 million came from another FTX executive, Nishad Singh, also on February 4. 

Montoya’s other PAC, Opportunity For Tomorrow, contributed nearly $195,000 to the FTX executive-backed PAC. One other major contributor was Everytown For Gun Safety Action Fund, the PAC arm of the gun control organization founded by major Democratic donor Michael Bloomberg. 

The Phoenix-based PAC only put $1.26 million back into Arizona through its independent expenditures committee (IEC). From there, the money can’t be traced.

The remainder went to Democratic PACs and candidates in other states, primarily ad campaigns to benefit congressional and state legislature candidates in Oregon, Texas, Michigan, Kentucky, North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, Illinois, California, New York, and New Jersey. According to the PAC’s website, the primary reason for the PAC is to elect candidates focused on preventing pandemics.

The only Arizona candidate to which Bankman-Fried contributed directly was Congressman Ruben Gallego (D-AZ-07): $5,800 in March. 

Bankman-Fried also contributed thousands to two other Arizona-based PACS. He gave $5,000 to Guarding Against Pandemics, another Phoenix-based PAC with Montoya serving as treasurer. Bankman-Fried also gave $5,000 to a Phoenix-based PAC sponsored by recently-defeated Congressman Tom O’Halleran’s (D-AZ-01) campaign.

The PAC received brief coverage by Politico in January, about a week after it launched and a week before it got its first contribution from Bankman-Fried. 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Maricopa County’s Lobbyist Helped Kill Election Reform Bills

Maricopa County’s Lobbyist Helped Kill Election Reform Bills

By Corinne Murdock |

On Wednesday, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors (BOS) advised voters to petition the legislature for the election reform they’d like to see — yet it was a lobbyist who spoke out on behalf of the counties against certain election reform bills desired by constituents this past session.

Supervisor Thomas Galvin said during the meeting that voters dissatisfied with the election processes needed to direct their frustration at the state legislature. He claimed that the legislature was “sitting on their butts” when it came to establishing election law, hence why it takes so long to count the votes. 

“Go to the state legislature — they’ve been sitting on their butts, they haven’t done a single thing. If you want changes in how votes are counted, let them know,” said Galvin. “We’re all very disappointed in what happened, and we want to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Similarly, Supervisor Steve Gallardo said that it was incumbent on the legislature to reform election law.

“Many of the suggestions that were made, this board can’t do. We’re an arm of the state. You have to go to the legislature. You have to change the laws,” said Gallardo. “Give us the authority to make some of the changes that are being suggested.”

Bills designed to restructure election processes were lobbied against by someone designated to speak on behalf of the counties. Jen Marson, a lobbyist and executive director of the Arizona Association of Counties (AACo), spoke out against a number of bills introduced to refine the election processes which ultimately failed, including: 

  • SB1056, invalidating ballots not included in chain of custody documentation and making it a class 2 misdemeanor to knowingly put a ballot into the collection, verification, or tabulation process outside of the official chain of custody;
  • SB1360, granting election observers the right to observe, document, and question all stages of the election process;
  • SB1577, requiring county recorders or other lead election officials to separate and record duplicated and adjudicated ballots by their type and defect or damage, compiled in a report submitted to the legislature;
  • SB1609, requiring a court to order an election to be repeated within 90 days if a contested ballot measure or candidate didn’t receive the highest number of votes;
  • SB1359, requiring unique election system passwords for election employees, volunteers, and contractors;
  • SB1570, implementing additional voting equipment chain of custody requirements such as access restricted to authorized election personnel, tamper-proof seals for accessible ports, and chain of custody logging, as well as prohibiting voting equipment from having internet access capabilities;
  • SB1572, requiring county recorders to publish a list of eligible voters on their website 10 days before primary and general elections, as well as all ballot images and sortable cast-vote records, and requiring all ballots to be separated and tabulated by precinct;
  • SB1358, requiring ballots in counties with voting centers to be separated and grouped by precinct for hand count audits;
  • SB1404, repealing the Active Early Voting List (AEVL) and limiting early ballot voting eligibility;
  • SB1357, prohibiting election machines or devices certified by laboratories not accredited at the time of certification;
  • SB1474, declaring primary and general election days as state holidays, prohibiting voting locations from being used as on-site early voting, and establishing voting on election day only;
  • HB2241, requiring anyone dropping off an early ballot to either show ID or sign an acknowledgment that they have permission to do so on behalf of the voter.

Marson also spoke out against bills that passed, such as HB2492, which requires proof of citizenship when registering to vote. That particular law attracted lawsuits from the Department of Justice (DOJ) and voting rights groups.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Kari Lake Fundraising For Lawsuit After Voters Claim Disenfranchisement

Kari Lake Fundraising For Lawsuit After Voters Claim Disenfranchisement

By Corinne Murdock |

Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake is fundraising to take legal action in response to the reported thousands of voters testifying their disenfranchisement. Most of the complaints concerned the county-wide vote center malfunctions that resulted in voters leaving without voting, spoiling their ballot, or having their ballot rejected later.  

Lake refused to concede the race to her opponent, Democrat Katie Hobbs, though most called the race in Hobbs’ favor earlier this week.

Lake began posting voter testimonies on Thursday.

Several voters shared that they weren’t comfortable with putting their ballots in “Box 3,” which was where ballots that the tabulators failed to read were placed. 

At least 17,000 voters ended up placing their ballots in that third box option. However, the number of those who refused and spoiled their ballots, then left without voting, is unknown; the county didn’t respond to AZ Free News inquiries about that estimate by press time. 

Voters’ concerns about their vote not being counted once placed in Box 3 stemmed from Arizona GOP leadership, who instructed voters to refuse casting a Box 3 vote.

The county insisted that Box 3 votes would be counted. Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Gates rebuked those who sowed distrust over Box 3 as a valid voting option.

Another voter claimed that he has cast a regular ballot for years without issue, yet had to vote provisional last Tuesday. He claimed that his vote has yet to be counted.

Another voter testified that the printer issued faded ink on her ballot. She said that her ballot was rejected eight times before poll workers had her spoil the ballot and vote on a new one. The entire ordeal took her two hours.

AZ Free News asked the county last week whether the toner used in the printers was the same as the primary. They still haven’t responded.

In a statement, Lake said that last Tuesday’s issues were proof of what she’d been saying for months. She blamed both the tabulation machines and printers for the mass vote center failures, though the county stated publicly that printer settings were the main issue. It took over eight hours for the county to discover the issue, well into Election Day.

Lake continues to gather election complaints on a website, “Save Arizona Now.” 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.