By Julia Harte
(Reuters) -Kari Lake, one of the most high-profile Republican candidates in the midterm elections to embrace former President Donald Trump's false claims of voter fraud in 2020, lost her bid to become the next governor of Arizona, Edison Research projected on Monday.
The closely fought governor's race between Lake and Democrat Katie Hobbs was one of the most significant in the general election because Arizona is a battleground state and will likely play a pivotal role in the 2024 U.S. presidential election.
Lake's loss is the latest defeat for a series of candidates endorsed by Trump, who on Tuesday is expected to announce another White House bid.
After the Arizona governor race was called, Hobbs wrote on Twitter: "Democracy is worth the wait." Lake expressed disdain for the election calls, tweeting that "Arizonans know BS when they see it."
Lake had vowed to ban the state's mail-in voting, which conspiracy theorists falsely claim is vulnerable to fraud, fueling distrust among voters about the safety of a voting method used by hundreds of thousands of Americans.
Her defeat capped a triumphant week for Democrats, who defied Republicans' hopes for a "red wave" in the midterm elections.
Democrats retained their control of the U.S. Senate after keeping seats in the swing states of Arizona and Nevada, with Vice President Kamala Harris holding the tie-breaking vote. The party could win outright majority control if Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock beats Republican challenger Herschel Walker in a Georgia runoff on Dec. 6, bolstering Democratic sway over committees, bills and judicial picks.
The Democratic victories in a swath of gubernatorial, congressional and statehouse elections defied expectations that voters would punish them for record inflation, including high gas and food prices. Instead, Democrats were able to curb their losses, in part by mobilizing voters angry over the U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn the constitutional right to abortion.
Still, Republicans continued to edge toward control of the House of Representatives. As of Monday, Republicans had won 214 seats and the Democrats 207, with 218 needed for a majority. Control of the House would allow Republicans to stymie President Joe Biden's legislative agenda.
It could take several days before the outcome of enough House races is known to determine which party will control the 435-seat chamber.
Lake, a former television news anchor, was one of a string of Trump-aligned Republican candidates who lost battleground state races. Voters in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin also rejected election deniers in races for governor and other statewide election posts.
Biden narrowly beat Trump in Arizona in the 2020 election. Hobbs, Arizona's current secretary of state, rose to national prominence when she defended the state's election results against Trump's claims of voter fraud.
On Monday, she won the seat currently held by Republican Governor Doug Ducey, who could not seek re-election because of term limits.
Vote-counting in Arizona continued for nearly a week after the Nov. 8 election. Arizona requires voters' signatures on early ballots to be verified before they are processed. The counting was delayed this year because hundreds of thousands of early ballots were cast at drop boxes on Election Day, officials said.
Lake and Trump had pointed to temporary Election Day problems with electronic vote-counting machines in Maricopa County as evidence that Republican votes were being suppressed.
A judge denied a request to extend polling place hours, saying Republicans had provided no evidence that voters were disenfranchised by the issue.
In a Sunday appearance on Fox News, Lake said the lengthy counting process was "trampling" voters' rights, and was further evidence of why election administration in Arizona needed to be reformed.
"We can't be the laughing stock of elections any more here in Arizona, and when I'm governor, I will not allow it," she said.
(Reporting by Julia Harte and Brad Brooks; Editing by Colleen Jenkins, Alistair Bell and Edmund Klamann)