When Doug Ducey arrived at the campaign headquarters of Proposition 123 on the night of May 17, he hoped to celebrate. By ten o’clock, however, the Republican governor of Arizona knew that nearly a year’s worth of negotiation and politicking lay in jeopardy. The polls had closed a few hours earlier and election returns showed voters evenly divided on the ballot initiative, which sought to change how the state funds schools. “We were winning,” says Ducey, “but we needed more information.” He left the office, drove home, and went to bed, unsure about whether he’d eke out a narrow victory or suffer a huge defeat — and perhaps a bit worried about his political future.

The next day came and went without a result, as election officials kept counting ballots. At last, on May 19, the final word arrived: Arizonans had approved Prop 123 by fewer than 20,000 votes, out of more than a million cast. Although the close contest took many by surprise — they had thought the measure would pass easily — the campaign’s internal polling, released only after the election, had pointed to a tight race. “After eight years of President Obama and his policies, we’ve seen an erosion of trust,” says Ducey. “That’s why Prop 123 was a heavier lift than what a lot of people expected. For voters, a default position is ‘No.’” Even so, Ducey got what he wanted: “We’re thrilled with the outcome.”
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