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Katie Hobbs, Arizona Democratic candidate for governor, waves to supporters at a campaign event in Peoria, Ariz., Monday, Nov. 7, 2022.Ross D. Franklin/The Associated Press

Republican election denier Kari Lake will lose the Arizona governor’s election to Democrat Katie Hobbs, according to election projections, marking another striking repudiation of populist conservatism in the U.S. midterm elections.

Ms. Lake has been one of Donald Trump’s most vocal supporters and spent days saying she was certain she would win. But with 98 per cent of ballots reporting, U.S. media organizations including NBC, CNN, and the Associated Press, projected that Ms. Hobbs has accumulated enough votes for victory, following a week of counting in Arizona’s vote-dense Maricopa County.

A former news anchor who campaigned with brash charisma, Ms. Lake’s race has been watched closely as a barometer of support for Mr. Trump, who is expected to announce a third presidential campaign on Tuesday night. Ms. Lake has modelled her combative style and electoral platform after the former president, repeatedly questioning the results of the 2020 election and pledging to declare an “invasion” at the southern border if elected.

But she failed to overcome Ms. Hobbs, a social worker turned state official who has accused Ms. Lake of “trying to dismantle democracy.”

“Democracy is worth the wait,” Ms. Hobbs said Monday evening on Twitter.

Arizona Republicans have already sent signals that they intend to contest the results of the vote if it did not favour their candidates.

Ms. Lake “should win by 11%,” Mark Finchem, the Republican who lost his bid to become Arizona’s secretary of state, said on Twitter Monday evening. “No way she lost,” he wrote.

Arizona became a stage for some of the most strident election denialism in the U.S. following Donald Trump’s loss in 2020. Republicans in the state ordered a multi-million-dollar audit, which resulted in a small number of additional votes for Joe Biden.

In a brief post to Twitter, Ms. Lake indicated that she did not acknowledge her opponent’s victory.

“Arizonans know BS when they see it,” she wrote.

Supporters of Ms. Lake have already begun to protest this year’s vote, with a small cluster of people standing outside the Maricopa County election headquarters in Phoenix Monday. They brought around spray-painted signs saying “Count the Votes” and “Hobbs = Cheat.”

“We can’t be confident that the vote is real,” said Carol Gairing, one of the protesters. She said the 2022 vote raised “the same” doubts as the 2020.

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Ms. Hobbs is also Arizona’s sitting secretary of state, with responsibility for oversight of elections, and has refused calls by opponents to recuse herself from oversight of the vote.

Her role is just one of many causes for electoral suspicion raised by conservatives, particularly “America-First” Republicans loyal to Mr. Trump. In Arizona, they have accused local officials of “voter suppression” because of an election day technical glitz in which some ballots printed too faintly for them to scan properly. That created longer lines and, Republicans have alleged, caused some voters to abandon their ballots.

The election is “being stolen from Kari Lake,” Steve Bannon, the former strategist for Mr. Trump who is now a broadcaster, said Monday.

“We have to stop the certification,” he added. “No doubt.”

In Arizona, officials dismissed his criticism as speculation from someone who is not a state resident.

Those overseeing the vote in Maricopa County, the second-largest voting district in the U.S., have grown increasingly vocal about responding to critics.

They pointed in particular to a tweet sent just after 10 a.m. on election day by Kelli Ward, who chairs the Arizona Republican Party. It explicitly told voters not to put ballots in “Box 3″ if their ballots did not scan. That box was a secure backup, used to collect votes that could be tabulated later at a central location.

Voters who heeded Ms. Ward’s advice added to voting difficulties, county officials said, describing a line of 150 people inside one voting location with people refusing to place their ballot in Box 3.

The advice from Ms. Ward and others “led to some of the chaos,” Bill Gates, a Republican who chairs the Maricopa County board of supervisors, said Monday, displaying a printout of the tweeted message.

“We have accepted our responsibility in this,” he said. “But I’m not willing to accept responsibility for issues that were caused by others. And it is clear to me that those lines were longer because leaders in one political party were spreading misinformation.”

Still more issues emanated from conspiracy theories that raised doubt about the fast-drying felt-tip pens provided inside voting centres. One county candidate even suggested earlier this year that those pens “can insert votes.”

“Some people were spreading that you should only use a blue ballpoint pen on social media. To what end we’re not sure,” said Fields Moseley, Maricopa County’s communications director.

The result, however, was additional problems. Some of those who wrote in ballpoint failed to make a sufficiently dark mark on ballots for them to be read by tabulation scanners — further slowing the process, and causing additional need for human verification.

Arizona’s Republicans have already filed at least one lawsuit over the midterm vote, an application to extend voting hours after the faint-printing issue emerged. A judge denied that application, but history suggests more lawsuits are likely.

Helen Purcell, the former county recorder for Maricopa County who spent 28 years administering elections in the Phoenix area, said she sees no evidence of voter suppression in last week’s vote. The printing problems emerged early in the day, and while they were widespread they were largely resolved by early in the afternoon. That provided plenty of time before 7 p.m. closure of polls for any voter to “conduct some kind of remedy if their vote was not counted,” she said.

But she expressed irritation over the waves of distrust and skepticism that have become a fixture of Arizona elections.

“We had a sitting president that told everybody the election had been stolen from him — and everybody has just repeated that over and over again. It’s very frustrating to me,” she said.

At this point, she added, “I don’t put anything past the people who are making the allegations.”

Mr. Trump, for his part, is expected to announce another presidential campaign on Tuesday. On Monday, he sent out a number of memes from his account on Truth Social. One shows him in a monochrome image, pointing at the camera, next to his name written in the colours of the American flag: “Trump 2024,” it says, “Making Liberals Cry Again.”