Democrat Katie Hobbs has been elected governor of Arizona, NBC News projects. Hobbs’ win over Republican Kari Lake is a major victory for democratic norms — and helps keep a formidable MAGA politician from ascending to an influential office.

For most of the race, Hobbs, Arizona’s secretary of state, held a narrow lead in the polls, but in the final stretches Lake moved slightly ahead. Lake’s candidacy centered on 2020 election denialism, creating a sharp foil with Hobbs’ entire job. While Lake used her skills as a telegenic communicator — something she honed as an experienced local news anchor — Hobbs often struggled to make clear and forceful points on the campaign trail.

Hobbs’ most controversial move in the race was her refusal to debate Lake, even after trailing her in the polls. She framed it as a boycott of Lake’s fervent 2020 election denialism, but many speculated she was worried about being outshone on the debate stage. While it raised eyebrows on the left, the decision might’ve been a strategically effective move.

Hobbs’ win is a relief for democracy watchers. As secretary of state, she oversaw the state’s administration of elections, and she represents credible vote counting in an era in which the GOP has rallied behind the idea that inconvenient losses are proof of fraud. Setting aside partisan politics, it’s good news for the country that Arizona voters chose a small-d democrat over an authoritarian activist — especially in a critical battleground state.

Zeeshan Aleem is a writer and editor for MSNBC Daily. Previously, he worked at Vox, HuffPost and Politico, and he has also been published in The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Nation and elsewhere.