Commentary

The biggest crisis in Arizona is a leadership deficit

December 15, 2021 9:25 am

Image by cbies | iStock / Getty Images Plus

Raise your hand if you’re excited for the 2022 election!

Anyone?  

That’s what I thought.

Arizonans, including political nerds such as me, have little reason for excitement, even though the results of next year’s election could mean the difference between saving or undoing our nation’s democracy.

The reason for the malaise is simple: far too many weak, conspiracy-addled and scandal-laden candidates are running for the state’s top job.

And while Arizonans might be used to weak governors (see: Doug Ducey, once described as someone whose “backbone melts like a Crayon on a Phoenix sidewalk in July”), I’d argue this is the weakest field of gubernatorial candidates I’ve encountered in my 20-plus years in Arizona.

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On the Republican side of the aisle, there’s no appetite for any candidate willing to have an honest discussion about the last election. All of the candidates seem to have pledged their souls to Donald Trump and the continuation of the Big Lie.

The front-runner has zero experience in government or in a policy-setting role, and her solution for what ails our underfunded classrooms and teacher shortage crisis is putting cameras (and Big Brother) in all of our children’s classrooms.

Kari Lake’s GOP opponents have had ample opportunity to prove they’re different from her. Instead, they seem afraid of their own shadow — or, rather, the shadow of Donald Trump.

Where’s the daylight between Lake and Matt Salmon or Lake and Karrin Taylor Robson or Lake and Kimberly Yee?

I’ve yet to find it, which is odd, since there are still some Republicans (not to mention a majority of independents) who aren’t on board with overturning the results of a free and fair election or voiding the votes of nearly two million Arizonans.

If party leaders and candidates aren’t worried, then they’re either not paying attention or allowing their personal feelings for Hobbs to outweigh political reality.

– Julie Erfle

Trump’s endorsement isn’t a golden ticket to the nomination. His coattails are notoriously short, and his brand has backfired on Republican candidates in competitive states, which should give consultants a reason to stake out opposing positions — or at least sane positions — on serious issues such as education and climate change.

I can only assume the reason they have not is because 1) they’re afraid of the mob that awaits any Republican who speaks the truth and 2) they believe voters will choose a terribly flawed and anti-intellectual candidate over a discredited Democrat.

It seems difficult to believe, but Democrats are on track to completely blow their chances at reclaiming the governor’s seat.

Establishment Democrats are sticking with Katie Hobbs, whose botched response(s) to the Talonya Adams verdicts forced a recent mea culpa that might have made matters worse.

After the apology, Adams announced she plans to file another lawsuit, this time for statements Hobbs made after the latest verdict that she contends were defamatory.

With yet another lawsuit on the horizon, the Hobbs scandal will suck all the oxygen out of the race. Every headline from now until November will be a competition between Kari Lake’s crazy comments and Katie Hobbs’ legal troubles.

Down-ballot candidates will be forgotten — or worse yet, lumped in with the Hobbs controversy.

That’s especially unfortunate because almost every statewide seat is open, and the two incumbents who are running — State Superintendent Kathy Hoffman and Corporation Commissioner Sandra Kennedy — happen to be Democrats.

If party leaders and candidates aren’t worried, then they’re either not paying attention or allowing their personal feelings for Hobbs to outweigh political reality.

Democrats should be competitive in 2022, especially because of the plethora of weak, anti-democratic/pro-insurrectionist candidates on the Republican side.

But I fear our crisis of leadership will instead turn it into another missed opportunity with Kari Lake as the beneficiary and Arizonans — and our democratic values — as the losers.

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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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