Gov. Doug Ducey kicked off four more years as Arizona’s governor Monday by welcoming two Democrats into the ranks of statewide officeholders with a message of bipartisanship and working together, especially on urgent issues like adopting a multi-state drought contingency plan.
Ducey also pledged during Arizona’s inauguration ceremony, in which six statewide officeholders were sworn into four-year terms, to build on the economic progress of his first term and hold the late Sen. John McCain as an example of public service.
The governor was sworn in for his second term along with Attorney General Mark Brnovich and Mine Inspector Joe Hart. Republican Kimberly Yee was sworn in as state treasurer and Democrats Katie Hobbs and Kathy Hoffman were sworn in as secretary of state and superintendent of public instruction, respectively.
Arizona’s elected officials should look to the state’s history when tackling major issues like the state’s water future, Ducey told the thousands of people who showed up to the inauguration ceremony at the state Capitol.
Hinting at the bipartisan approach former Republican Sens. Jon Kyl, Barry Goldwater and Democratic Sens. Carl Hayden and Morris Udall along with former Arizona Gov. Bruce Babbitt, a Democrat, adopted when addressing state water issues, Ducey urged Republican and Democratic officials to rise above party to secure Arizona’s water future.
“Democrats and Republicans rose above party labels,” Ducey said. “They brought skeptical and reluctant stakeholders to the table. And they acted – and they did it with good faith and honest intentions.”
State lawmakers have been tasked with adopting a multi-state drought contingency plan to stabilize water levels in the Colorado River as Lake Mead sits on the brink of a water shortage. Federal officials set a deadline for the seven Colorado River Basin states to adopt the plan that divvies up water cutbacks by Jan. 31. If they don’t, the Bureau of Reclamation will take matters into its own hands.
On several occasions, Ducey has expressed his commitment to passing the drought contingency plan, even committing $30 million in state dollars to help Arizona water interests weather water cutbacks in order to boost water levels in Lake Mead. But Ducey’s clear commitment to water reforms in his inaugural address hint at what may well be his top priority once the legislative session gavels in next week.
Among his other, high-level priorities for his second term, Ducey doubled down on growing Arizona’s relationship with Mexico — the state’s top trading partner. He also promised to see through the teacher pay raises, spread out over three years, that he committed to last year.
Ducey also pledged not to raise taxes in the next four years, following up on a campaign promise he made ahead of his first term. Some Republican lawmakers have said Ducey went back on his “no taxes” pledge when he signed into law a new, $32-per-vehicle registration fee last year.
But the state’s economic picture is drastically different now than it was four years ago, which Ducey addressed in his remarks.
When Ducey entered office, Arizona was on the tail end of the Great Recession and the governor faced a $1 billion budget shortfall. Onstage, Ducey bragged that the state now has the largest projected budget surplus in a decade, which he attributed to economic growth, economic development efforts and keeping government from getting in the way of business.
“Arizona is open for business,” Ducey said. Government has gotten out of the way, the people are benefiting, and it’s going to stay that way.”
Ducey closed his speech with a nod to McCain and other former Arizona leaders — both Republicans and Democrats. He urged Arizona’s politicians to heed McCain’s motto of “country first” to create a state the late senator would be proud of.
The governor and his staff played an integral role in helping plan McCain’s memorial services last year. Ducey also spoke at an intimate ceremony for McCain’s friends and family when McCain was lying in state at the state Capitol.
“John McCain gave us the model for how public servants should carry out their duties – with honesty, integrity, compassion, and above all, a commitment to serving a cause greater than one’s self,” Ducey said.
Other statewide elected officials also gave brief remarks at the ceremony and some like newcomers Hoffman and Hobbs outlined some of their top priorities moving forward.
Hobbs, who replaces Secretary of State Michele Reagan, pledged to create a cybersecurity task force to ensure elections security and oppose any efforts to restrict voting in the state.
As secretary of state, Hobbs is first in the state’s line of succession and Democrats’ highest statewide elected official. She pledged Monday to do everything she can to make it easier for Arizonans to vote.
“The greatest responsibility of this job is one that constitutes the heart of democracy — protecting the sacred right to vote for everyone who is eligible to do so,” she said.
As she takes the reins as the state’s superintendent of public instruction, Hoffman’s paid homage to public education.
She called for greater investment in the state’s public schools and competitive pay for everyone involved in public education — from teachers to support staff and beyond. She also pledged to conduct an audit of the Department of Education and explore ways to put an end to the state’s teacher shortage.
“Imagine if all our students, no matter their background and no matter their zip codes had the support and services they needed in their local school to be successful,” she said. Well, guess what? I’m done saying,’imagine if.’”
Brnovich and Yee both gave deeply personal speeches that referenced their families and their unique heritage.
Yee, who upon being sworn in today became the country’s first Republican Asian-American woman elected to a statewide office, talked about her ancestors first coming to the United States from China at the turn of the 20th century. At the time, they called the United States “Golden Mountain” because it represented a land of opportunity and prosperity.
“My parents taught me that I could be anything I wanted in in this great country,” she said.
Yee, Arizona’s new state treasurer, previously broke barriers as the first Asian-American woman to serve as Senate majority leader in the state Legislature.
While the other elected officials were sworn in by Chief Justice Scott Bales of the state Supreme Court, Brnovich was sworn in by his wife Susan Brnovich, who was recently named a U.S. district court judge.
Brnovich, upon being sworn in as the state’s top lawyer, talked about growing up in Arizona as a first-generation American whose family’s primary language was not English. Brnovich’s mother was born in Yugoslavia and came to the U.S. after WWII.
“Our family didn’t read about history, we lived history,” he said. “I think when that’s the case, you have a unique understanding and appreciation for how important the Constitution is and how important freedom is.”
But being attorney general isn’t about interpreting the Constitution and law how you want it to be, it’s about leveling the playing field and ensuring everyone plays by the rules, Brnovich said, rattling off highlights of his first term.
Four years ago, Republicans swept the statewide offices. Democrats Hobbs and Hoffman bring a new flavor to statewide elected offices and could create an environment of increased bipartisanship in state politics.