Incumbent County Recorder candidate Suzie Sainz checks in at the polling place at the VFW Hall in Nogales on Tuesday.

Incumbent County Recorder Suzie Sainz built a lead on early ballots, then held off an election day surge by challenger Anita Moreno in the Democratic primary race for county recorder.

Unofficial results from the County Elections Office released Thursday evening after all ballots were counted showed Sainz with 3,275 votes (50.5 percent) to 3,179 (49 percent) for Moreno.

The first results from 8 p.m. Tuesday, which included only early ballots turned in prior to election day, had Sainz ahead 52.6 percent to 46.8 percent. That margin shrank to 51.6 percent to 47.9 percent an hour later as ballots from the polling places were counted, and tightened even more as the counting continued.

In the end, Moreno fared better than Sainz on ballots cast at the polls on election day, winning 514 votes to 357 for Sainz. She also collected 16 votes from provisional ballots, to 9 for Sainz.

However, Sainz had the advantage on early ballots: 2,909 votes to 2,649.

Sainz, a 63-year-old Nogalian, has held the recorder position for the past 26 years. During a pre-primary interview, she noted her efforts to scan and archive property documents, some dating back to 1899, and touted her voter outreach.

However, Sainz also acknowledged that she doesn’t work on Fridays, and said she puts in only five to seven hours per day when she does come in to the office.

For her part, Moreno, a 59-year-old Nogalian, touted her nearly 34 years of title and escrow experience in making the case for change. She promised to focus on making documents more accessible online, and to manage voter rolls more efficiently.

Moreno campaigned heavily in her bid to unseat the incumbent, raising more than $13,700 and spending just shy of $7,190 as of June 30. Sainz, according to her campaign finance reports, took in more than $5,650 and made expenditures of nearly $4,200 during the same period.

Sainz will now face one opponent in the Nov. 3 general election: David Alvarez of Rio Rico, an Independent candidate.

Alvarez, 55, has also pointed to technology and online access as areas that need improvement at the Recorder’s Office.

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