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The Daily Agenda: Hobbs won't debate Lake
This could have been handled so much better ... Two new laws that won't be enforced ... And a man went to court.
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There won’t be a debate between the two candidates for Arizona governor this year, a break from tradition and an abnormality for a statewide race.
Democratic candidate Katie Hobbs’ campaign tried to get the debate changed into a town hall, but, in a meeting Friday, the Clean Elections Commission indicated they didn’t want to deviate from a standard debate format1.
The commission instead gave the two candidates a week to come up with mutually agreeable ground rules. That, it seems, won’t be happening.
Hobbs’ team on Sunday declined the debate invitation from Clean Elections, saying they wanted a town hall where more thorough policy ideas could be discussed instead of a debate with GOP candidate Kari Lake, which would “only lead to constant interruptions, pointless distractions, and childish name-calling.”
It probably would have become a spectacle. But it was Hobbs’ job to reel that in, and to respect voters enough to believe they’d be able to cut through the noise. She just needed to show up and act like the adult in the room.
Hobbs isn’t the only candidate to decline a debate. Candidates up and down the ballot, from both parties, have refused invites from Clean Elections or other debate hosts. It typically becomes momentary fodder for the campaign that chose to show up. For instance, U.S. Rep. Greg Stanton, a Democrat, recently posted that he was “disappointed” his opponent, Republican Kelly Cooper, wouldn’t show up because “debates are an essential part of the democratic process.”
But Hobbs is the most high-profile, and she’s running for our state’s top office. Voters want to hear from people running for such a powerful role. These debates are run by people who know what they’re doing and moderated by a seasoned pro, Arizona PBS’ Ted Simons.
From the start, the refusal to debate has been a strange hill to die on. The debate itself would not have garnered this much negative attention for Hobbs, even if she lost.
In Friday’s Clean Elections meeting, Hobbs’ campaign was asked directly whether she would share a stage with Lake and debate.
“I’m not going to answer a hypothetical question right here, but if you want to lay out what it would look like in writing we’re happy to review it," Nicole DeMont, Hobbs' campaign manager, told commission chairman Damien Meyer.
If she never intended to participate, she should have simply declined, rather than act like there was a scenario under which she’d appear on the same stage as Lake.
Instead, she dragged out a weeklong cycle about declining to debate into multiple weeks. It was an amateur move that disrespected the time of the people trying to put on public debates for voters at an incredibly heated time.
The point of declining a debate was to not create a spectacle that disrespects voters, Hobbs has repeatedly said. A one-on-one Kari Lake show, which is what we’re left with, does nothing to alleviate that problem.
Speaking of debates: 12News’ Brahm Resnik hosted a debate between Maricopa County Attorney candidates this weekend. Republican county attorney Rachel Mitchell and Democratic candidate Julie Gunnigle contrasted their views on abortion, prosecution and the fate of the office in a debate that surely will help voters decide who to support in November. While it hasn’t garnered as much attention as other races, the MCAO battle is worth your time.
Better find a lawyer: A new law that would ban people from filming the police within 8 feet was blocked from going into effect on Sept. 24 by a federal judge while a court case over its constitutionality moves forward, the Arizona Mirror reports. The law was challenged by media organizations and the ACLU, which contend it violates the First Amendment. As we noted last week, it’s not clear who’s going to defend the state on this one — the AG’s office declined, as did Maricopa County. To understand how the new law could apply if it isn’t blocked by the courts permanently, check out this Phoenix New Times story from Katya Schwenk about an Apache Junction lawsuit from a guy who claims he was prosecuted more harshly because he filmed the cops.
It’s blocking-laws season: Another new law, House Bill 2243, was temporarily blocked in the courts after a civil rights group contended the law would bounce valid voters from the voter rolls and intimidate naturalized citizens and other voters away from registering to vote, the Republic’s Ray Stern reports. Rachel previously reported on this law for Votebeat, where advocacy groups said the law, which stemmed from a previously vetoed law, would violate voters’ rights.
Uncertainty reigns: Doctors across the country are having to “think like lawyers” now that Roe v. Wade is overturned, the New York Times reports. In Scottsdale, a hospital formed a committee to create rules for handling abortion care “to protect patients’ health and doctors from liability,” which heard a lot of concerns from employees. Health care providers of all kinds in the hospital worried about their liability when helping patients in scenarios like providing emergency contraception or anesthetia to an abortion patient, the paper reports.
“We already work under a cloud of getting sued. That’s what we signed up for,” Dr. Julie Kwatra told the Times. “This is different. This is criminal liability, not civil liability. This is jail time.”
Saving up to shower: Thousands of people in metro Phoenix go without running water at times because they can’t afford their water bills, leaving utilities to cut them off, the Republic’s Zayna Syed reports. While the lack of running water from overtapped wells often grabs headlines, this kind of “plumbing poverty” happens in urban and suburban environments daily.
Safe roads needed: The City of Phoenix will spend $10 million a year on a “Vision Zero” plan that will attempt to reduce traffic deaths to zero by 2050, KJZZ’s Christina Estes reports. The plan includes 41 strategies that will be implemented to try to reduce deaths and crashes.
Take down your signs: Candidates who lost in the primary had 15 days to take down their signs, but there are still signs littering intersections and roads around the states, the Republic’s Sasha Hupka reports. But there are no penalties for not following the law in this case, and a U.S. Supreme Court case out of Gilbert complicates how cities can respond.
Lobbying is lucrative: Arizona State University’s students who attend a campus in California can’t get federal aid because California hasn’t accredited the university’s California Center, so ASU has spent about $400,000 lobbying the California Legislature on the issue, the State Press’ Alexis Waiss reports.
Running an independent journalism outfit isn’t nearly as lucrative, but you can help us stick around by becoming a paid subscriber.
A more modern Legislature?: In a Republic op-ed, longtime Arizona lobbyist Kevin DeMenna lays out six ways to repair the Arizona Legislature, from increasing legislative pay and getting rid of term limits to revising the Voter Protection Act and modernizing public input.
We love records: Documents surfaced as part of Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s 2020 lawsuit against Google include expert witness testimonies and previously confidential information on location tracking tools, the Arizona Mirror’s Jerod MacDonald-Evoy reports.
Who’s backing Blake: GOP U.S. Senate candidate Blake Masters snagged the backing of three Republican Arizona governors — Gov. Doug Ducey, Jan Brewer and Fife Symington. And a PAC that Masters’ former boss and primary benefactor, Peter Thiel, previously donated heavily to is reserving TV slots to support Masters, after national Republicans have so far not spent much to boost Masters.
Shocking: While Ducey contends that his latest border gimmick of putting shipping containers in border fence gaps work to prevent people and drugs from coming into the country, the evidence shows that the containers are largely not effective, the Republic’s José Ignacio Castañeda Perez reports. Fentanyl mostly comes into the U.S. through ports of entry, and migrants can just walk around the shipping containers.
After journalist Dillon Rosenblatt reported on Republican attorney general candidate Abraham Hamadeh’s lack of experience in the courtroom on his Substack, Hamadeh responded with evidence that he once stood in a courtroom.
Transparency note: We moderate legislative debates hosted by Clean Elections, which is paid work.