Amid our country’s racial reckoning, Katie Hobbs’ apology may be too little, too late
Screenshot via Twitter/@katiehobbs
I admit it. I’m disappointed that Secretary of State Katie Hobbs’ campaign to become Arizona’s next governor seems now to have all but imploded.
Not that I had already decided to vote for her. I know better than to make a decision as important as that a year out from Election Day. The fate of political campaigns can turn on a dime. Plus, the rigors of a full-bore campaign have a way of laying bare a candidate’s mettle and moral compass.
But like many in Arizona and across the country, I was impressed with Hobbs’ poise and passion as she responded to a wave of anger and hostility from far-right extremists in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election. Despite facing threats of physical harm from supporters of former President Donald Trump, Hobbs stood her ground as a champion for free and fair elections.
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In fact, a couple of months ago, I would have predicted — even welcomed — a head-to-head matchup between Hobbs and Republican front-runner Kari Lake, who recently called for Hobbs to be jailed. Hobbs’ purported crime? The certification of the 2020 election results.
By the way, Lake, a zealous promoter of Trump’s big lie, also wants to lock up reporters, believes the domestic terrorists who attacked the U.S. Capitol are patriots, and wouldn’t be caught dead wearing a mask to keep herself, much less her fellow human beings, from contracting COVID-19 — which at last count has killed more than 22,000 Arizonans and has our hospitals bursting at the seams.
In other words, electing Lake to the governor’ office would be a living nightmare.
But as Lake’s popularity with the state’s Trump-worshiping, hard-right Republican voter base is skyrocketing, Hobbs’ dream of becoming governor hasn’t just been crippled, it may be on life-support.
If you follow state politics at all, by now you’ve probably heard all about Hobbs’ stunningly tone-deaf response to last month’s federal jury verdict which found that Talonya Adams, who is African American, had been discriminated against when she was fired from her job with the State Legislature in 2015.
Hobbs, who was the Senate Democratic leader at the time, blasted the jury’s decision and insisted Adams deserved to lose her job.
To paraphrase one of my favorite movie lines, Hobbs “chose poorly.”
Now, in response to a growing and bitter backlash to her harsh criticism of Adams and the jury verdict, Hobbs has replaced her campaign manager and switched to a new tact.
On Wednesday, she released an impassioned video on Twitter apologizing for how she first responded to the court ruling.
I know that my initial response to the jury verdict fell short of taking real accountability for the pain I’ve caused — to Ms. Adams and many Arizonans. Arizonans deserve a leader who owns up to her mistakes. pic.twitter.com/7MaUkq3YNA
— Katie Hobbs (@katiehobbs) December 8, 2021
Unfortunately for Hobbs, her apology may be too little and much too late.
I don’t know Adams, but given that a federal jury had ruled in her favor not once but twice, I buy her allegation that she was wronged by her bosses.
The trouble with Hobbs’ reaction, at least politically, is that it not only completely discounted what the juries concluded was credible evidence Adams had faced discrimination, but it ignored the context of the verdict’s announcement.
The context is this: Systemic racism against people of color, and especially against Blacks, is not just real and widespread, but it’s an issue that’s now top of mind for a major swath of Arizona voters, especially Democratic voters of color.
And speaking of the context: Did Hobbs not notice the millions of people around the world, and here in Arizona, who marched in protest last year against the kind racism that led not only to the murder of George Floyd but to a deep and shameful legacy of discriminatory treatment toward people of color and other minorities throughout our country’s history?
It’s all part of our country’s so-called racial reckoning.
In her video, Hobbs finally seems to get that. “I understand that my response fell short of taking real responsibility,” she said. “Please allow me to say this clearly and unequivocally: I apologize to Ms. Adams. I’m truly sorry for the real harm that I caused Ms. Adams and her family. My response to the jury verdict was short-sighted, unnecessarily defensive and failed to meet the moment.”
It certainly did. And it’s what we do when faced with those moments that truly matter.
Hobbs also met this week with a group of Black leaders to apologize for her initial response and pledged that if elected governor she would make amends by promoting equity and diversity in her administration. She repeated that pledge in her videotaped mea culpa.
Watching the video, I thought, “She seems sincere. Now, at least, she’s saying all the right things.”
But actions always speak louder than words, and the combined effect of Hobbs’ glaringly belated apology may be drowned out by justified criticism from her Democratic gubernatorial primary challengers, Marco Lopez and Aaron Lieberman, and what’s sure to be a vicious, if insincere, assault on her credibility from Lake or whoever makes it out of the Republican primary.
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James E. Garcia