Kyrsten Sinema takes lead in Arizona Senate race

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As of a few minutes before 8 p.m. ET Thursday, Sinema held a slim lead with 49.1% of the vote, while McSally was right behind with 48.6% of the vote, with 83% of the vote reported, CNN results show.

Lurking behind the legal action is the idea that thousands of ballots in Maricopa County or even across the state may have to be manually recounted due to the markings on the ballot, which the clerks call "outstack" ballots.

Judge Margaret R. Mahoney said it was too soon to require Maricopa and other counties to stop contacting voters to verify signatures on mail ballots.

Republican groups in Arizona have filed suit against several of the state's county recorders and the secretary of state arguing that different standards are being applied to the counting of some mail-in ballots that were dropped off at polling locations. He said "late early" ballots, which don't get counted on Election Day, now are undergoing a signature-verification process. That's because officials say they need the time to do things like verify the signatures on the outside of the envelopes of all those early ballots.

Some of the clearest examples of third party spoilers have been on the presidential level, with Ralph Nader being seen in that role by many in the 2000 election. It took The Associated Press 12 days to name her as the loser of her first congressional race in 2012 because the margin was so narrow and vote counting was slow.

A hearing is scheduled for Friday in Maricopa County Superior Court, Eric Spencer, elections director for the Secretary of State, told the Republic. "That's absolutely wrong, and the Arizona Democratic Party is fully prepared to fight to ensure that every last Arizonan has their vote counted".

Sinema faced no real opposition in the Democratic primary and had months to define herself as a nonpartisan, problem-solving centrist on the airwaves while her allies slammed McSally with attack ads over the Republican's health care vote.

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As the count comes in, Ms. Sinema has overcome a sizable gap. "There are a lot of outstanding ballots - especially those mailed-in - and a lot of reasons to feel good!"

Democrats hope Sinema can reverse a decade-long losing streak in all Arizona statewide races.

The picture was brighter for the state's Democrats in Congress, where Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick was elected to the Tucson-area swing district seat vacated by McSally and Democrats held all their other four seats, giving them a majority of the state's nine-member U.S. House delegation.

Democratic incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson is defending his seat against a challenge by sitting governor Rick Scott, the GOP candidate.

McSally and Sinema have both remade themselves politically. She has tried to rally Republican voters by emphasizing her military background as the first USA female combat pilot while touting her support for the president's tax cut and other parts of his agenda.

Angela Green, a Green Party candidate, was running a distant third, with just over 2 percent of the vote.