Katie Hobbs win in Arizona a major defeat for election deniers
Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs speaks at a roundtable event in Phoenix, Monday, Sept. 19, 2022. Hobbs was elected Arizona governor on Monday, Nov. 14 defeating Republican rival Kari Lake. | Ross D. Franklin/AP

Arizona’s working people breathed a collective sigh of relief when Democrat Katie Hobbs was finally declared winner of the Gubernatorial election. She defeated the Trumpite Republican election liar, Kari Lake.

Arizona’s ultra-right-wing Republican controlled legislature has been attacking working people’s living and working conditions, immigrants, women’s health care, and public education, all while piling up tax cuts and loop holes to corporate interests and billionaires.

The last Democratic governor, Janet Napolitano, was able to veto most of these attacks, but since she resigned to join the Obama cabinet in 2009, the people have been at the mercy of the legislature.

On Sunday the nation had learned that Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly was reelected, and that Adrian Fontes had defeated MAGA Republican and Oath Keepers member, State Rep. Mark Finchem, to replace Hobbs as Secretary of State.  Voters also approved creating an office of Lt. Governor to go into effect next election.

Until then Fontes will be first in line of succession if the Governor’s job becomes vacant.  In addition to Napolitano’s resignation to join the Obama administration, Arizona has had a recent history of governors resigning in scandal, being impeached, and going to prison.  Adrian Fontes is only the second Mexican American to be elected to a high state office in Arizona. Raul Castro served as Governor in the 1970s.

The races for Attorney General and Superintendent of Public Education were still too close to call Monday night with Democrat Kris Mayes leading MAGA Republican Abe Hamade for AG, and Republican Tom Horne leading incumbent Kathy Hoffman for Superintendent.

Horne held the office a decade ago and used it to attack Mexican American and all Ethnic Studies in public schools.  Incumbent Democrat, Sandra Kennedy, the only African American ever elected to a statewide office in Arizona, lost her seat this time after having served two non-consecutive terms.

In the election for the Legislature the Republicans maintained their 16-14 majority, all 16 Republicans being white in a state where barely half the population is white. In the House of Representatives, the Republicans appear to have gained one seat for a 32-28 majority. The 32 Republicans include a half dozen people of color while the 28 Democrats have a balance more reflective of the state’s population.

The Republicans appear to have made their best gains in the elections for U.S. Congress.  Incumbent Democratic Rep. Tom O’Halleran was soundly defeated due to redistricting, and the seat vacated by retiring Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick appeared to be going to Republican Juan Ciscomani who is in a tight race with progressive Democrat Christen Engel.

In the district once held by Sen. Kelly’s wife, Gabby Giffords, but altered in the latest redistricting, Phoenix incumbent Rep. David Schweikert is narrowly leading newcomer Jevin Hodge, a 28-year-old African American community activist.  We should expect to hear more about Hodge in the future.

Arizona’s Labor movement was in the thick of this struggle as were the Alliance of Retired Americans, women’s organizations and nonprofits working to turn out the Latino vote.  It appears that the Trump forces helped turn out more Republican voters than usual for a midterm election, but not enough to carry the worst MAGA candidates. Many Republicans and independents voted against Trump-endorsed election deniers where they were publicly exposed, but then proceeded to vote Republican down ballot.

Arizona voters overwhelmingly passed popular initiatives to outlaw dark money in campaigns and to cap interest rates on medical debts at 3%.  A proposition to allow Dreamers and other undocumented people to pay instate tuition for public higher education also was approved. This was considered a victory for immigrant rights with activists across the country cheering and hoping to improve upon it in future initiatives.

The legislature also placed several propositions on the ballot to mess with voting rights and to restrict the right to place initiatives on the ballot by petition.  The worst were defeated, but some passed.

Some progressives feel that Democratic candidates would have fared even better than they did had they pushed stronger pro-people platforms to target Arizona’s lack of support for schools, taxing the rich, soaring rents, and the resulting homelessness.

One of the biggest victories

One of the biggest victories, however, the win for the Democratic candidate for governor, Katie Hobbs over her far-right, Trump-endorsed opponent, staved off a major threat to voting rights in the state. It also reduced the chance that the MAGA forces could use their political strength in Arizona to help take away the choice of voters nationwide in a presidential election by denying electoral votes to the candidate chosen not just by Arizonans but by voters in other states.

Hobbs, who is Arizona’s outgoing secretary of state, defeated Kari Lake, a former TV anchor who denies the 2020 election results. Lake has refused to say if she would accept defeat this time around but tweeted “Arizonans know BS when they see it” after Monday’s result emerged.

Hobbs celebrated her win on Twitter with the message: “Democracy is worth the wait.”

Hobbs became known nationally after defending the legitimacy of the 2020 election and by sending out warnings about Lake not just to Arizonans but to media and outlets across the country.

Lake’s loss is a major problem for Trump because it serves as evidence that the fascistic former president can serve as an albatross around the neck of right-wing candidates, causing division and disarray among the right wingers who control the Republican Party. Lake’s loss is certainly not helpful to Trump as he weighs another announcement soon regarding a third run for the presidency.

Voting rights advocates are also breathing a sigh of relief, as Hobbs’s victory can head off additional damage to Arizona’s election systems. Republican lawmakers in the state introduced at least 81 bills seeking to restrict voting access in 2021 and 2022, bills Hobbs can now veto.

Had she won, Lake had vowed to further dismantle voting norms in the state, arguing winners should be declared on election night – a rare occurrence in Arizona, where mail-in votes can take days to count – while also forgoing ballot counting machines in favor of slower and less accurate hand counts.

And in recent months, rightwing goons had aggressively operated in the state. Hobbs had sent complaints of voter intimidation to law enforcement and the U.S. justice department. And members of the conspiracy theorist group Clean Elections USA had been photographing and intimidating election workers and voters outside the Maricopa County election headquarters in Phoenix.

Hobbs’s victory appears to indicate that Arizona, long considered a conservative bastion, is now much more of a battleground winnable by progressives. Contrary to GOP propaganda about Latino voters moving toward Republicans, they have been and are continuing to fuel this development in Arizona.

Abortion rights a motivator

Abortion rights were a motivator for many Arizonans. In a recent poll, more than 90% of Arizona voters opposed a total ban on abortion.

After Arizona revived a ban on abortions that existed there even before it was a state, Hobbs made the issue a key plank of her campaign, speaking in personal terms about the impact such a ban would have on women and families.

Lake, meanwhile, ran on a right-wing platform denying women’s rights and supporting a total ban on abortions. Lake also promised to declare an “invasion” at the southern border. A staunch supporter of Trump, she had also threatened to only accept the election results if she won.

Before becoming a politician Hobbs was a social worker who worked with homeless youth and an executive with a large domestic violence shelter in the Phoenix area. She was elected to the state legislature in 2010, serving one term in the House and three terms in the Senate, rising to minority leader.

She was thrust into the center of controversy as Arizona became ground zero in many of the Trump attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. She appeared frequently on national television defending the integrity of the vote count.

She will succeed the Republican governor, Doug Ducey, who was prohibited by term limit laws from running again. She is the first Democrat to be elected governor in Arizona since Janet Napolitano in 2006.

John Wojcik contributed to this article.


Joe Bernick
Joe Bernick

Joe Bernick is the Director of Salt of the Earth Labor College, Tucson, Arizona.