Democrat Hobbs hanging on to small lead in Arizona governor race
By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services
PHOENIX -- Democrat Katie Hobbs was hanging on to a small lead Wednesday afternoon with fewer than a 12,000-vote lead over Republican Kari Lake in the race for Arizona governor.
With 99% of precincts reporting, Hobbs had 50.3% of the nearly 1.8 million votes tallied by that point compared with 49.7% for Lake. But there were still several hundred thousand ballots to be counted, largely from Maricopa County.
The outcome of the hotly contested race for governor could turn on the question of whether it was a good idea politically for Hobbs to refuse to debate her Republican foe.
Hobbs charged that a head-to-head confrontation with Lake would end up little more than a circus. As proof, she cited the four-way debate ahead of the Republican primary along with Lake's insistence, all evidence to the contrary, that Donald Trump actually won the popular vote in Arizona.
And she insisted that Arizona voters would make up their minds based on the issues and not whether she was willing to debate.
But Lake, with more than two decades of experience as a TV news anchor, took full advantage of Hobbs' refusal.
She chided the Democrat secretary of state for being the first gubernatorial candidate in more than two decades to refuse to participate in the general election debates sponsored by the Citizens Clean Elections Commission. And to drive home the point, Lake launched but launching her own somewhat carefully curated ``Ask Me Anything'' tour.
That left Hobbs seeking to find footing for her own message of experience and leadership -- she was a state lawmaker and Senate minority leader -- and seeking to hammer home a key point that Lake would restrict the right of women in Arizona to terminate a pregnancy.
But Lake found other opportunities to go after Hobbs.
It starts with the fact that a federal court jury ruled, twice, that Senate Democratic staffer Talonya Adams had been the victim of sex and race discrimination when she was fired while Hobbs was the minority leader. And while Hobbs never was named as a defendant in the federal court case, testimony in the case that resulted in the $2 million verdict -- eventually reduced to $300,000 -- showed Hobbs played a key role in the decision.
Hobbs also found herself having to explain her position that there should be no set limit in Arizona law about when a woman could have an abortion.
That answer was based on the fact that she said late-term abortions are seldom elective, with issues like late-discovered genetic defects requiring parents to make difficult decisions with their doctors. But Lake translated that to say that Hobbs would allow children to be aborted right up to the time they are born.
Lake, by contrast, has called abortion ``the ultimate sin'' and said it should be outlawed.
There's something else working against Hobbs.
This is a midterm election with Democrat Joe Biden in the White House. Democrats also control the House and Senate.
And whatever the causes of high inflation, double-digit gasoline price hikes and supply chain issues, this is a chance for voters to weigh in on what they think of the current administration.
But Lake's real strength, at least among the GOP base, has been her full-throated backing of claims by Trump that the 2020 election was stolen from him. That, in turn, earned her the endorsement of the former president and his appearance at rallies on her behalf.
And, like Trump, she also has raised doubts about the accuracy of vote-counting equipment, even filing suit along with Republican Mark Finchem, the party's candidate for secretary of state, to require all ballots to be counted by hand.
A federal judge threw out the case, saying that their claims that machine counting can produce inaccurate results are little more than speculation on their part, backed only by ``vague'' allegations about electronic voting systems generally. That ruling is now on appeal.
Lake also inherited something else from Trump: her practice of lashing out at the media whenever stories did not go her way.
That showed up just two weeks ago after there had been a burglary at Hobbs' campaign office. While Hobbs never specifically blamed Lake and her supporters, both she and the Arizona Democratic Party suggested it was the result of the kind of rhetoric that the Republican was spouting.
The suspect eventually arrested by Phoenix police, as it turned out, had no connection to Lake. But she called an ``emergency'' press conference to excoriate those who reported Hobbs' remarks, calling it ``malpractice of journalism like I've never seen before'' for running with the story before an arrest had been made, failing to give sufficient notice to a recent poll showing her with an 11-point lead, and accusing reporters of effectively being agents of the Democratic Party.
It didn't help that the local Fox affiliate -- the station she had worked for -- displayed a graphic in the corner of the screen nearly two weeks before the election showing that Hobbs had won.
The station blamed it on a mistake while using test information from the Associated Press to prepare election-night graphics. But Lake noted in a Twitter post it came the same evening as her press conference, suggesting it might be retaliation.
Lake has proven before that she can attract more than just the Trump-linked elements of Arizona Republicans. In the GOP primary she outpolled Karrin Taylor Robson who had been the choice of the more moderate elements of the party, including outgoing Gov. Doug Ducey.
The governor has since announced his support of Lake despite the fact that she called him ``do-nothing Ducey'' during the campaign, lashing out in particular at his handling of the COVID epidemic. But Ducey said it came down to the fact that she, unlike Hobbs, supported his priorities like lower taxes and universal vouchers of public funds to send children to private and parochial schools.
Lake also has said if she is elected she would immediately issue declare an ``invasion'' at the border which would give her more powers to deal with illegal immigration.
Ducey, however, refused to pursue that option even after being told by Attorney General Mark Brnovich it was within his power.
Hobbs secured the Democratic nomination after rolling over former Nogales Mayor Marco Lopez.
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