While incumbent Rep. J.D. Hayworth continued to wait out the final vote count three days after the election, his political opponent and apparent successor Harry Mitchell began making preparations to replace him. Mitchell, a Democrat, on Thursday named former congressman Sam Coppersmith chairman of his transition committee.
Hayworth has yet to concede defeat in the 5th Congressional District, and Mitchell has yet to accept victory.
However, the next Congress will be seated in January. With that in mind, Mitchell said he needs to prepare to take office, even though ballots are still being counted.
“While the election may take a few more days to officially decide, the people of this district deserve to know that regardless of who wins, their new congressman will be ready to govern effectively,” Mitchell said.
Election officials were still counting thousands of outstanding ballots Thursday.
Mitchell led 50.4 percent to 46.3 percent with 146,346 votes counted through Thursday night.
The percentages were virtually unchanged from Wednesday, when the tally was 140,819.
“I really feel good about the position I’m in now. I’d rather be 6,000 votes ahead with other votes to be counted than the other way around,” Mitchell said.
The process of counting “provisional” and “conditional provision” ballots is expected to take several more days.
With the change in power to a Democratic majority, Coppersmith said “things are moving (especially) quickly with the re-organization of the House, the change in control between the parties and all the switching of offices.”
Among Mitchell’s immediate concerns are assembling staff and setting up offices in both Washington and in Arizona.
Mitchell has every intention of vacating his sparse campaign headquarters next to Tom’s BBQ restaurant at the Mill Towne Center in Tempe.
The oddly configured office suite featured a two-door bathroom that doubled as a hallway connecting Mitchell’s personal office to his aides’ work space.
Mitchell plans to fly to Washington on Sunday to attend orientation sessions for incoming members of Congress.
“We’re confident that we’re going to win and we’re going to be prepared,” he said.
The candidates have yet to speak to one another since election night, Mitchell said.
Hayworth attended the Mesa funeral of former state House speaker Jeff Groscost on Thursday. Hayworth did not discuss the political race.