Judge: Andy Biggs defeats Christine Jones in contested CD5 GOP primary

Posted at 2:29 PM, Sep 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-17 00:44:40-04

The status of a new lawsuit filed in the razor-thin Republican primary in Arizona's 5th Congressional District is in doubt after results were announced in the contested election.

Thursday afternoon, a judge announced State Senate President Andy Biggs defeated former internet executive Christine Jones by 27 votes: 25,244 to 25,217. About an hour after the announcement of the vote total, the Jones campaign said it was conceding the race.

"Although we came up short on results, I believe we were successful in making this election about the issues rather than political hand-offs," Jones said in a statement.

She also thanked her supporters, volunteers and staff and wished Biggs the best in the general election.

"Obviously, the results today show that Mr. Biggs won and I'm a supporter of Republicans in general," Jones said outside the courtroom. "So, I'm going just support him and we're going to move on to the general election and hope that he wins and he's victorious."

The entire ordeal should also be a reminder that "unequivocally, every single vote matters," she added.

Biggs did not attend the hearing but said he was "humbled" by his opponent's decision to stop contesting the race.

"Running for office is a daunting task and requires hard work and determination," Biggs said in a statement. "Christine demonstrated those qualities and more throughout the campaign."

The two candidates emerged from a four-way primary as the front-runners with Jones initially leading by hundreds of votes. But her lead dwindled just a few days later. Nearly 86,000 votes were cast in the election, with Biggs' slim margin over Jones automatically warranting a recount under Arizona law.

Jones filed a lawsuit Thursday asking a county judge to add more ballots to the recount totals. Those include about 100 ballots from people registered to vote in Congressional District 5 who went to the wrong precinct. The other batch of nearly 600 ballots in dispute were rejected as "overvotes." The election computers won't tally ballots where it appears more than one candidate was selected in the CD5 race; however, stray marks on the ballot can cause the machine to register an overvote. Jones wants each ballot to be inspected to see if the voters' will can be determined.

Jones' campaign is running out of time for challenges. The Maricopa County Recorder is set to start printing general election ballots Monday afternoon.

Maricopa County and the state approved their respective canvasses Monday and elections officials obtained a court order for the recount Tuesday. Officials then started recounting the ballots after testing tabulation equipment.

Jones' attorneys wrote a letter Monday to state Attorney General Mark Brnovich and Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan, saying nearly 600 ballots cast in the race contained votes for too many candidates. They urged an investigation into three alleged voting anomalies.

Jones' campaign is running out of time for challenges. The Maricopa County Recorder is set to start printing general election ballots Monday afternoon.

According to unofficial results, Biggs has 25,240 votes and Jones 25,224 while two other candidates each had about 17,000 votes.

Both are vying to replace retiring incumbent Republican Matt Salmon. The GOP primary winner will be favored to win the open seat for the heavily Republican district in southeastern Phoenix suburbs, including Gilbert and parts of Chandler and Mesa.

Salmon had endorsed Biggs last February, seemingly paving the way for a smooth primary victory. But Jones, a candidate for governor in 2014, pumped $1.6 million of her own cash into the race. She touted herself as a conservative business leader with a platform focused on immigration, fiscal and foreign policy.