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Arizona Senate cliffhanger: Democrat Sinema edges past McSally as ballot-counting continues

Arizona U.S. Senate Democratic candidate Kyrsten Sinema (left) and Republican Martha McSally attended an Arizona State University game on Nov. 3 in Tempe, Arizona. Sinema has gained the lead as ballots are still being counted from Tuesday's election. (Photos by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

For the first time since Tuesday’s election, Arizona Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Kyrsten Sinema gained a razor’s edge lead over Republican Martha McSally.

How close is it?

Figures from Thursday evening showed Sinema led McSally by about 9,600 votes. Sinema had about 49.1 percent of the total reported votes, while McSally had 48.6 percent, according to the New York Times.

With as many as a half-million ballots outstanding, the race remains too close to call.

Both campaigns are saying they believe they will emerge as the ultimate victor.

As Sinema took the lead Thursday, McSally’s campaign manager, Jim Bognet, predicted it wouldn’t last. In a written statement he predicted Sinema's lead would "disappear."

"With half a million ballots left to count we remain confident that as votes continue to come in from counties across the state, Martha McSally will be elected Arizona's next Senator," Bognet said in the statement.

Sinema's campaign remains equally confident.

"Arizonans must have faith that their votes are counted, and we are working diligently to ensure that count proceeds in a fair, transparent, and timely manner that voters can trust," Andrew Piatt, said Sinema's campaign manager, said in a written statement.

He also said that as ballots continue to be counted, final results will show, "Kyrsten Sinema will be the next Senator for the state of Arizona."

The majority of the outstanding ballots are coming from Maricopa County, which is Arizona’s largest and includes Rep. Sinema’s congressional district.

When will it end?

As the state continues to count votes, it could be days before the race is decided.

The long process is a typical problem in Arizona. About 75 percent of voters in Arizona cast ballots by mail. The ballots are then put through a signature confirmation process before they are opened and tabulated. If signatures cannot be verified, county recorders can ask voters to verify their identity.

Four county Republican parties launched a lawsuit Wednesday against that process. The lawsuit alleges that counties have different standards for allowing voters to adjust any issues with their mail-in ballots, and some improperly allow changes after Election Day.

Arizona is one of three Senate races without a declared winner.

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