Commentary

Katie Hobbs is a liability. Democrats need a plan B in the governor’s race, now.

December 1, 2021 11:40 am
Katie Hobbs inauguration

Secretary of State Katie Hobbs at the inauguration on Jan. 7, 2019. Photo by Jerod MacDonald-Evoy | Arizona Mirror

Arizona Democrats are worried. And for good reason.

Katie Hobbs — their frontrunner in the race for governor — has a credibility issue, and it seems to be getting worse with each passing day.

The onus for this problem lies squarely with Hobbs.

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She had an opportunity to show real leadership after Talonya Adams won her second, historic jury decision for sex and race discrimination and retaliation by taking responsibility for her role in Adams’ firing, showing genuine remorse, and offering a plan to ensure discrimination and retaliation would never again happen on her watch.

Instead, she did the opposite, shifting the blame for discriminatory pay onto Republicans and doubling-down on her reasons to fire Adams, citing so-called performance issues that — for some unexplained reason — she failed to mention while under oath at two separate federal jury trials and refused to detail to reporters.

Hobbs’ campaign team, which should win an award for worst crisis PR ever, has made one miscalculation after another.

They had no prepared statement or comment ready when the verdict was announced, made several questionable statements (such as saying Hobbs “voluntarily” testified when she was actually subpoenaed or that she never received the subpoena when there is evidence to the contrary), and kept Hobbs away from reporters, making it appear as if she had something to hide.

The question for Democrats shouldn’t be whether Katie Hobbs is a better option than Kari Lake, but if Katie Hobbs is the best Democrats can do. I sure hope not.

– Julie Erfle

Recently, Hobbs appeared on national TV (she’s still shunning local TV), claiming she “learned from this” and has been a champion for pay equity in the secretary of state’s office. But what, exactly, did Hobbs learn if she continues to smear Adams’ reputation and question the decisions of two juries?

Was it that she shouldn’t have assumed this would all blow over, even though she’s running for the highest office in the state?

My guess is that Hobbs was caught off-guard by Adams, who was relatively quiet after the first jury verdict but is fighting to be heard this time around, and by prominent members of the Black community, who also determined they won’t be bullied into supporting Hobbs simply because she’s less awful than the Republican alternatives.  

They’re demanding Democrats walk their talk. If Democrats are smart, they’ll listen.

Hobbs is a liability for Democrats. She might be able to garner enough votes to win the Democratic primary, but it’s highly unlikely she can win in the general.

Republicans are clamoring over who is the Trumpiest of All, courting white nationalists and a host of election conspiracy theorists and wingnuts.

The last thing Democrats need is a gubernatorial candidate who will be the subject of million-dollar ad campaigns that cast doubts in voters’ minds about whether there’s much daylight between the Dem candidate and the Republican on issues such as racial justice and pay equity.

Those are bread and butter issues for Democrats. But if Hobbs leads the ticket, they will have to play defense when they should be playing offense, talking about issues like education funding and an economy that works for all Arizonans.

Some Democrats continue to support Hobbs because they fear the alternative is Kari Lake, and even with her flaws, Hobbs is heads and tails better than a woman who is campaigning on a platform of “more mean tweets.”

The ‘unstoppable’ Kari Lake?

But the question for Democrats shouldn’t be whether Katie Hobbs is a better option than Kari Lake, but if Katie Hobbs is the best Democrats can do.

I sure hope not.

Democrats need a candidate free of scandal, someone who will energize disengaged voters, not make them hold their nose as they vote (if they vote at all).

There are two other Democrats in the race: former lawmaker Aaron Lieberman and former Nogales Mayor Marco Lopez. And there are rumors that other prominent Democrats, such as Congressman Greg Stanton and Tempe Mayor Corey Woods, are considering tossing their hat into the ring.

If so, they should do so now, while Democrats still have time to coalesce their resources behind a strong candidate, put this controversy behind them, and shape the narrative for 2022.

Republicans are not unbeatable in the midterms. But I believe that if Hobbs leads the ticket, their chances increase exponentially.

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Julie Erfle
Julie Erfle

Julie Erfle hails from North Dakota, but has called Arizona home for more than twenty years. She began her career in Phoenix as a creative services producer at KPHO-TV5 and 3TV. Blending her background in communications with her passion for community activism, Julie launched the political blog Politics Uncuffed in 2011, and began working as a communications director and consultant on candidate and initiative campaigns. She is the former executive director of Progress Now Arizona, a progressive communications and advocacy non-profit, and a fellow with the Flinn-Brown Arizona Center for Civic Leadership and Leading for Change.

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