Arizona has been burnishing its reputation as the loony bin of politics lately. The local Left likes to portray politics in this state as crazy town, inhabited by deranged Republicans, “far-right loons who can’t get any loonier,” according to a recent subhead in the Arizona Republic.
And, alas, the GOP does provide ammunition for the claim. Arizona, in the 2022 election, was the state where “stop the steal” went to die. The Trump-backed candidates for the three top statewide offices were hoisted by their election-denial petard, while one Republican who eschewed the Big Orange imprimatur won going away. One of the former, losing gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, who forfeited what should have been a convincing victory by alienating the influential McCain wing of the party in her campaign and going all in on the stolen-election theme, is still battling in the courts, six months after the election. Libs refer to Arizona these days as a “hive of election denial.”
Clearly Hobbs is not ready for prime time.
But the election apparatus itself bears some of the blame. It takes weeks to finalize elections in the Copper State, weeks in which conjecture and conspiracy swirl among the electorate like the ubiquitous dust devils that hoover across the Sonoran Desert. Astonishingly, an election bungle in 2020 was not chastisement enough for officials to repair the 2022 election machinery. The tabulating devices malfunctioned on Election Day at Maricopa County polling stations, and officials spent many torturous days finishing the tally. Wrote Arizona Republic columnist Phil Boas: “This was not a ‘glitch,’ nor was it mere ‘technical problems’ as some have called it. This was a largescale system meltdown on a day everyone knew for months would be thronged with MAGA voters who don’t trust early ballots.”
As for recent madcaps, in February, one state rep, Liz Harris (R-Chandler), invited to the Capitol a guest speaker who accused, without evidence, a host of elected officials, including the speaker of the house and the governor, of accepting bribes from the Sinaloa drug cartel. She got kicked out of the House in April by a vote of 46–13, well exceeding the two-thirds threshold necessary for expulsion.
A little later, a different rep was caught in flagrante delicto (on camera) grabbing Bibles in the House members’ lounge and stuffing them under seat cushions and sticking them in the refrigerator. Rep. Stephanie Stahl Hamilton (D-Tucson), a Presbyterian minister, wasn’t protesting any particular grievance, she said, but that “the Christian Bible gets used like a weapon around this place.”
So, yes, political craziness is afoot in the Valley of the Sun.
Historically, the madness has tilted marginally to the right. Republican governors have been impeached (Evan Mecham) or convicted of bank fraud (J. Fife Symington III), while one Democrat (Janet Napolitano) cleared a path for the odious trend of renaming putatively offensively designated landmarks by turning Squaw Peak into Piestewa Peak while in office (way back in 2003). One bright spot: Jan Brewer, a Republican, did produce a highlight by wagging her finger in President Barack Obama’s face on the tarmac of Sky Harbor in 2012.
Then you have the “mavericks,” one putatively red, one putatively blue — John McCain and Kyrsten Sinema, respectively. And the “flakes” — represented by the eponymous former senator from Snowflake, Arizona, a town named after the two main Mormon settlers, Erastus Snow and William Jordan Flake, but doing double duty as a character descriptor of its favorite son.
Lately, though, the preponderance of the cray-cray has been coming from the Left, and specifically from the new guv, Katie Hobbs.
Just a few weeks ago, she was filmed fleeing reporters, a flight that prompted censure from so reliable a supporter as E.J. Montini, featured political columnist in the Arizona Republic. “Right now,” Montini wrote, “Hobbs does not look like a governor. She looks like a scaredy-cat.”
Said one TV newsman, Dennis Welch: “Ducking questions from the press, again. The move has increasingly become standard operating procedure for a governor who promised an open relationship with the media at the start of her administration.”
The Hobbs Dodge: Footage from @GovernorHobbs yesterday ducking questions from the press, again. The move has increasingly become standard operating procedure for a governor who promised an open relationship with the media at the start of her administration. #azfamily pic.twitter.com/dfCxEXBzov
— Dennis Welch (@dennis_welch) May 2, 2023
Who did not see this coming? Hobbs refused to debate Lake last fall even though embroiled in a race everyone called a squeaker at the time, and which proved to be so, with a mere 17,000-vote final margin. Republic opinion writer Laurie Roberts called Hobbs “a candidate who appears afraid to confront her opponent.” Lake said a debate between Hobbs and herself “would be like a birthday cake versus a chainsaw” — which seems to be about right, given Lake’s hardened reportorial chops and Hobbs’ nasal NPR “upspeak.”
It’s Hobbs’ MO. She would not debate her primary opponents, Aaron Lieberman or Marco Lopez, either. She was filmed fleeing to a restaurant bathroom when confronted by a Project Veritas reporter during the campaign. She even dodged the press during her swearing-in ceremony. Wrote Roberts: “No reporters were allowed inside to witness the event or, as importantly, to pose questions to the officials who will now run our state. Instead, the governor who vowed transparency livestreamed the event on her Facebook page.”
Clearly Hobbs is not ready for prime time. Montini’s actual parsing was: “She can govern but can’t act like a governor.” Roberts tweeted, about her recent flight from questioning, “This is a bad look for a governor.”
It could be Hobbs was running from yet more questions about her veto of the “tamale bill,” the vernacular name for House Bill 2509, which would have expanded the list of legal saleable homemade foods to include perishable items — like tamales, tortillas, salsa, and other foods. Citizens — principally Hispanic women — have for decades made tamales in their kitchens and sold them in parking lots or at soccer games or at other venues where people congregate. The food provides extra income for less affluent families, and, although the practice is illegal, the law has been loosely, if ever, enforced. HB 2509, which would have legalized the practice, flew through both houses of the legislature, winning by bipartisan blowouts of 45–11 in the House and 26–4 in the Senate.
Under pressure from the restaurant lobby and health authorities, Hobbs vetoed the bill, citing an increased risk of food-borne illness. The legislature had plenty of juice to overturn the veto — can you think of a less popular veto in the Hispanic community? — but 12 Democrats who had voted for the bill put their political interests ahead of those of their constituents and bailed on the veto, leaving the override six votes shy of the two-thirds needed.
Wrote Alma Hernandez (D-Tucson) on Twitter: “[The veto] makes no sense. People are NOT dying from street food poising. This is personal. Not only do many Hispanics depend on this to make a living but many fear being reported and fined.”
Hobbs also managed to offend Hernandez by calling attention to the dangers of “rodent or insect infestation” in her veto announcement. Hernandez said, “I certainly do not accept or am OK with anyone saying or comparing my community of homes (as) rodent and insect infested.”
Adding to Hobbs’ rough start, at the end of March, her press secretary, Josselyn Berry, sent out a tweet that seemed to encourage violence against “transphobes” hours after trans shooter Audrey Hale murdered six individuals, including three nine-year-old kids, at Covenant Christian School in Nashville. The tweet included a GIF of a woman plying two handguns, from the 1980 movie Gloria, with the caption: “Us when we see transphobes.” Berry resigned two days later.
Obama’s bromide following his inauguration in 2009 still has formidable legs: “Elections have consequences.”
The consequence of Katie Hobbs in the governor’s office should be enough to motivate Republicans to get their act together, beginning in 2024.
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