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Incoming SOS Katie Hobbs to ‘take the politics out of the office’

Katie Hobbs (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Katie Hobbs (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Secretary of State-elect Katie Hobbs will push to take the politics out of Arizona’s elections office.

Vowing not to endorse candidates, ballot measures or limit herself to Democratic speaking engagements, the newly elected Democrat insisted the state’s elections office must be Arizona’s most nonpartisan office.

“This is not a win for me,” she said. “It’s not a win for Democrats. This is a win for all of Arizona. It’s about restoring integrity and transparency to government, creating a government that works for all of us.”

Hobbs outlined her priorities as Secretary of State at a press conference in the state’s Executive Tower, where she will have an office once she is sworn in early next year.

She did not address questions about her soon-to-be staff or who will head up her transition team and similarly, did not reveal her legislative agenda, saying it still needs to be fleshed out.

But Hobbs already made clear that she will push for increased transparency in campaign spending and reforms that will make it easier for all eligible voters to vote.

Perhaps the most significant part of her agenda that she outlined for the press today, was that she aims for every county to have in-person voting centers open the weekend before an election.

Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes recently took flak for opening five emergency voting centers for people to cast their ballots the weekend before the Nov. 6 election. The state Republican Party criticized Fontes’ use of the voting centers, saying many of the people casting ballots at the centers did not have legitimate emergencies.

State law allows for early voting centers beginning 27 days before the election through the Friday before Election Day. But Hobbs indicated that early voting should be allowed on the Saturday, Sunday and Monday before Election Day,

“There’s absolutely no reason why that shouldn’t happen,” she said.

If she were able to expand the window for early voting that could make emergency vote centers unnecessary and obsolete. Ultimately, there needs to be consistency among all counties in terms of early voting and emergency voting centers, Hobbs said.

Changing election procedures to expand early voting would likely take an act of the Legislature, which is still Republican controlled.

But Hobbs is optimistic that Republicans will be more likely to work across the aisle this year considering Democrats made gains in statewide and legislative offices this election cycle.

“I think the one thing that was made loud and clear this election is that Arizona is not a one-party state anymore,” Hobbs said. “There’s a mandate for Republicans to work with Democrats to get things done for the good of our state.”

Having early voting in all Arizona counties the weekend before Election Day could also come down to whether the state and localities have the money to afford such a change.

Hobbs said she’s prepared to fight for all the funds she can get to make it easier for Arizonans to vote.  

“Resources are always an issue and something we’re going to continue to fight for to make sure that our elections are conducted in a way that allows every voter to participate,” she said.

Hobbs also said she will look into what she can do independently of the Legislature to increase campaign finance transparency, but said she will also support legislation that will shine additional light on political spending.

Despite what Hobbs said, her victory over Republican Steve Gaynor is a significant win for Democrats because a Democrat hasn’t held the Secretary of State’s Office in more than 20 years. It’s also significant because it means Hobbs will be second-in-command to Gov. Doug Ducey.

Should Ducey leave office, Hobbs would take over as Arizona’s governor. Hobbs’ role as Secretary of State could also position her well to run for the open gubernatorial seat in four years when Ducey is termed out of office.

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