MEDIA

Garrett Archer, ABC 15's data guru, talks about Kari Lake, 'Maricopa incoming' and more

Bill Goodykoontz
Arizona Republic

If you followed the 2022 midterm election in Arizona, and for a while it seemed like everyone everywhere was, one two-word tweet was certain to make you sit up and pay attention:

“Maricopa incoming.”

The tweets came courtesy of Garrett Archer, a data analyst for ABC 15 News in Phoenix, and they meant just what they said: Maricopa County was about to release another batch of votes. And Archer, a former elections analyst at the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office, was about to add them up and break them down.

This wasn’t anything new for Archer, known as the Data Guru (his Twitter bio picture is the Count on “Sesame Street”). He’s been doing the “Maricopa incoming” bit since the 2018 election. But his Twitter following has exploded. I wrote about him a couple of years ago when he had 55,000 followers.

Now he has nearly 122,000.

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Archer isn't surprised by all the attention to his election tweets

Was he surprised by the attention?

“I’m not surprised,” he said. “I was surprised at how much it grew this year, because it nearly doubled in size. But I’m used to it.”

No doubt.

“Every election cycle, just within a few days of the election cycle, people will just jump on and watch what’s going on in Arizona,” Archer said. “And really, since we’re a battleground state, everyone across the country is interested in what happens in Arizona.”

For the record, it’s not just Maricopa County that gets the “incoming” treatment. But since it’s the largest and most populous county in the state, it gets the most attention.

Several contests in Arizona were too close to call for several days; at least one race, for attorney general, is headed for a recount. And it took a few days for the Associated Press and Decision Desk HQ to call the race for governor for Katie Hobbs and the race for U.S. Senate for Mark Kelly.

So people were hanging on every tweet Archer posted.

He got some grief when, after Hobbs, a Democrat, pulled ahead of Republican Kari Lake after the first few batches of votes, he tweeted that some upcoming precincts would likely favor Republican candidates. Only the way he put it was that the GOP cavalry would arrive.

Twitter, ever home for the calm and reasonably minded, did what it always does: went nuts.

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Archer took some heat for 'GOP cavalry' and 'ruby red' precincts tweets

Archer remains undaunted.

“The GOP cavalry did show up, exactly like I said they would,” he said. “It wasn’t enough. The data showed that they were going to have some very impressive numbers in the last drops, and they absolutely did. But it just wasn’t enough to overcome the deficits they already had in the early ballots.”

Archer's Twitter followers also either liked or disliked, depending on their party affiliation, his description of heavily Republican precincts as “ruby red.” Soon it seemed like everyone was using it.

“It’s a nicer descriptor than blood red,” Archer said. “Because I used blood red too, and then I was like nah, I like ruby red better. I’m going to go with ruby red.”

Others complained that Archer didn’t tweet results and analysis fast enough. But the process takes time, and it’s not exactly a massive operation he’s got crunching the numbers.

“Sometimes I’m not as fast as obviously the New York Times or Decision Desk or any of the big results companies,” he said. “If you look at the New York Times, for example, their results page, their credits include like 30 people.

“I have me.”

Archer knows that as soon as he tweets “Maricopa incoming” (or any of the other 14 Arizona counties), there are a lot more eyes on him.

“I block it out,” he said. “There’s a moment usually within an hour of elections (results) dropping, sometimes 15 or 20 minutes, where just based on literally the speed of how my Twitter is operating — because it slows down considerably — that I know that it’s flipped over.

“There are a lot of eyes on my notifications, there’s a lot of eyes on my Twitter account. You can see — my whole demeanor changes and I literally just put up the county name, the number of ballots that dropped and the spread of the major candidates.”

This is not always the case. Archer tweets often and about a lot of things, in particular pictures of his young son. But that stops when the heat is on.

“I stop doing sort of personal posts, family posts,” he said. “I don’t even add any sort of personal flair to anything, at least in the first couple of days, because I know so many people are watching these posts. So I keep it very, very concise. And the biggest fear I always have is literally just a typo.”

He’s prepared for that, too. He can edit his tweets. Yes, Garrett Archer is a Twitter Blue. But not of the new, icky Elon Musk variety.

“I was a Twitter Blue before it went to $8,” he said.

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How Arizona's 2022 midterm went: 'We basically reran the 2020 election'

As for the election itself, “There were a lot of surprises this year,” Archer said.

“When you look at the results, we’re nearly identical to what we were in 2020,” he said. “Lake slightly underperformed in rural counties, and obviously Maricopa County, and Hobbs slightly overperformed in the urban, liberal counties.”

To Archer, it seemed like old times.

“In 2020 Donald Trump lost by 10,400 votes,” he said. “It looks like Lake is going to lose by about 17-20,000 votes. We basically reran the 2020 election.”

One thing Archer won’t do, despite Twitter clamoring for it, is call races, even though he’s doing basically the same work that decision desks do.

“There’s no reason to,” he said. “No other journalist is going to take my call and say, ‘Oh, Garrett Archer has called the race and therefore it’s over.’ They’re going to take the AP call. There’s no reason for me to put myself out there. There’s no net benefit. I don’t gain anything from calling a race.”

Most of the ballots have been counted at this point. Archer plans to do some post-election analysis and then get back to working on more data-driver stories for ABC 15. The grind never stops. So is he ready for 2024?

“Is anyone ready for 2024?” he said.

Don’t answer that.

Reach Goodykoontz at bill.goodykoontz@arizonarepublic.com. Facebook: facebook.com/GoodyOnFilm. Twitter: @goodyk