“Sanity versus chaos.” That’s the choice Arizona voters have when it comes to choosing a new governor, according to Democratic candidate Katie Hobbs.
Arizona’s race for governor is one of the most competitive – and most consequential – in the country, according to Politico. Hobbs was leading her opponent, Kari Lake, by just 1 percentage point among likely voters, well within the margin of error, according to an Arizona Republic and azcentral.com/Suffolk University Poll released Sept. 27.
Hobbs, who currently is Arizona’s secretary of state, hopes to succeed Gov. Doug Ducey, a two-term Republican who’s barred by state law from running again.
The race has captured national attention in the wake of false claims of election fraud in the 2020 presidential election. Lake, a former news anchor who has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump, has repeatedly peddled conspiracy theories that the results of the 2020 election were illegitimate – even though Arizona’s attorney general, a Republican, found no evidence of widespread fraud or irregularities.
“There’s so much at stake, and at the same time that these folks are focused on the 2020 election, we have real challenges in front of us,” Hobbs said in an interview. “We need leaders who are going to focus on addressing these challenges and bring people together to bring real solutions to the table.”
The two candidates have not publicly debated. Hobbs declined to participate in a debate sponsored by the Clean Elections Commission, saying it would only lead to “constant interruptions, pointless distractions and childish name-calling.”
Her campaign encountered a setback when a Black former legislative staff member publicly endorsed Hobb’s opponent in the August primary. Talonya Adams claimed she was fired in 2015, during Hobbs’ tenure as the Democratic minority leader in the state Senate, for complaining that she was paid less than white and male colleagues. A federal jury in November 2021 awarded Adams $2.7 million in her lawsuit against the Arizona Senate. After initially denying Adams’ firing was based on race or gender, Hobbs released a video in December apologizing to Adams for her response.
In an interview for Cronkite News, Hobbs spoke about her qualifications for office and her policy priorities.
Q: Why are you interested in this job?
Hobbs said she was motivated to enter the governor’s race after overseeing the 2020 election in Arizona – a position that thrust her into the national spotlight as she vigorously defended the integrity of the vote.
“We have a lot to do to make our state the best place to live, work and raise a family.”
Q: What in your past work, political or volunteer experience makes you the best candidate?
Hobbs was first elected to public office in 2010, when she won a seat in the Arizona House of Representatives. She went on to serve as a state senator and Democratic minority leader before being elected secretary of state in 2018.
Before entering politics, she was a social worker for homeless and runaway youth and the director of government relations at the Sojourner Center, Arizona’s largest domestic violence center.
“As a social worker, fundamentally my focus was to help people solve problems,” she said, “Government is a way to help solve problems, too, and that is the perspective I bring.”
Q: What are the major issues facing Arizona?
“Arizonans I’ve talked to are concerned about the affordability of skyrocketing housing prices, our state’s water crisis, fixing our public education system and protecting reproductive rights. And our freedom to vote,” Hobbs said.
Q: What will be your top priorities if elected?
Hobbs said she will focus on four major issues: public education; water management and climate; affordability of living; and reproductive rights.
On her campaign website, she promises to call a special session of the Legislature to repeal Arizona’s “draconian 1901 law” that bans most abortions. If legislators fail to act, she said she will help lead a drive to place the issue on the ballot for voters to decide.
To assist working families, she proposes establishing a state-level child tax credit and granting sales tax exemptions on such items as diapers, baby formula, over-the-counter medicines and feminine hygiene products.
She also endorses free early childhood education for students, affordable child care for parents and more certified school counselors and social workers in schools.
Q: How will you work to improve bipartisanship in politics?
“No matter how hard it is, I’m not going to give up hope that there are ways we can work together. We have to.
“I’ve worked with a Republican governor, Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature to expand health care, tackle the opioid epidemic and end the state’s rape kit backlog. I know that people run for office because they care about the state and they want to make it a better place. We might have different ideas about how to do that, but I think we can figure out ways to tackle the tough challenges we’re facing.”
Q: Do you have any concerns regarding the security of our elections?
“Every Arizonan, whether they want to believe it or not, can be assured that our elections are safe and secure, that results will be accurate and fair and that we are following the laws and procedures that are in place.”
She has been an outspoken critic of the election audit the state Senate conducted in Maricopa County in 2020, calling it a “fake audit” and a waste of taxpayer money.
Q: What is a personal challenge that you feel you need to overcome?
Hobbs has been the target of death threats and harassment from those who believe the 2020 election was stolen from Trump.
On May 6, 2021, she tweeted: “Earlier today a man called my office saying I deserve to die and wanting to know ‘what she is wearing so she’ll be easy to get.’ It was one of at least three such threats today. Then a man who I’ve never seen before chased me and my staffer outside our office.” The incidents led the Arizona Department of Safety to assign her protection.
Earlier today a man called my office saying I deserve to die and wanting to know “what she is wearing so she’ll be easy to get.” It was one of at least three such threats today.
Then a man who I’ve never seen before chased me and my staffer outside of our office. https://t.co/kKoc3g02Io
— Governor Katie Hobbs (@GovernorHobbs) May 7, 2021
“This is being spurred on by elected leaders and other politicians, and it’s been extremely challenging,” Hobbs said. “But I’ve focused on the job that Arizonans elected me to do, and I’m not going to back down from that.”
Q: Please share a quote or advice that you live by.
Hobbs’ advice for people interested in running for office is to not take things personally. And she hopes the sometimes-violent rhetoric surrounding elected officials doesn’t stop people from getting involved.
“We really need good people to step up who want to serve their communities or their state, and you grow a thick skin.”
Q: What should be done, if anything, about border security?
Hobbs’ plan for securing Arizona’s borders includes boosting funds for local law enforcement, community centers and hospitals along the border, according to her campaign website. She also calls on the federal government to pass comprehensive immigration reform, including a pathway to citizenship for “Dreamers,” undocumented people who came to the United States as children.
Hobbs has been criticized for flip-flopping on Title 42, a public health policy implemented under the Trump administration and continued by the Biden administration that closes the border to asylum seekers and expedites deportations. In the course of one month, she said “Title 42 is not working”in an interview with Politics Unplugged and was quoted by CNN as saying that ending the policy would be a “rash decision.”
On her website, she says: “Title 42 isn’t working, as evidenced by the fact that border crossings in Arizona have continued to increase since this policy was put in place. But lifting Title 42 without a clear plan to secure our border would be irresponsible.”
Q: What should the state or federal government be doing to help mitigate the ongoing drought and address Arizona’s water issues?
Hobbs proposes creating an agency to address the state’s water resource and energy needs. The goal, according to her website, would be to secure water supplies by investing in conservation efforts, identifying groundwater shortages and upgrading water infrastructure.
She also supports a resolution of tribal water rights claims and says she will work to secure federal funding to improve water infrastructure on tribal lands, according to her website.