Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs celebrated victory in the governor’s race on November 15, after a 17-month campaign and nearly a week of vote-counting, and said one of her first priorities as governor will be an issue that was a focus of her campaign: abortion access.
“As soon as my term begins, I will do everything in my power to repeal the draconian 1864 abortion ban,” she said, referring to the territory-era Arizona law that bans all abortions with exceptions only for medical emergencies.
Hobbs used the Tuesday morning speech to lay out some of the priorities she’ll address when she takes office in January. She mentioned public school funding, water issues, abortion access, and her goal to make the state government “more transparent, accountable and responsive.”
“I want to thank the voters of Arizona for entrusting me with this immense responsibility. It is truly the honor of a lifetime,” she said at a rally that drew hundreds of supporters to the Luna Culture Lab in Phoenix.
“We all want lower costs, safer streets, a secure border, better schools, and water for generations to come,” she said.
Late Nov. 14, the Associated Press and major TV networks called the race for Hobbs, with a little more than 40,000 votes left to count across the state. Her victory, along with U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly’s re-election, was a signature win for Arizona Democrats, in a year that was expected to sweep a “red wave” of Republican candidates into office.
Hobbs didn’t mention her opponent, Republican gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake, by name, but she made some clear allusions to Lake and echoed language she used on the campaign trail when she cast the race as a choice between “sanity” and “chaos.” Lake’s style proved to be a powerful foil for Hobbs, and at her rally Hobbs indicated that she’s not putting it behind her yet.
“It has been a long year and a half, but in this election, Arizonans chose solving our problems over conspiracy theories. We chose sanity over chaos… But the attacks on democracy won’t end today with this victory and so it is on all of us to continue to defend it,” she said.
Hobbs spent the second half of the week at a training session for newly elected governors across the country organized by the National Governors Association, according to Joe Wolf, a Hobbs aide.
Her win will be narrow – as of early Nov. 17, with about 15,000 ballots left to count, Hobbs was ahead of Lake by just 0.6% – and she offered an olive branch to voters who picked her opponent.
“For those Arizonans who didn’t vote for me, know that I will work just as hard for you. In this moment of division, I believe there is so much more that connects us,” she said.
Lake, in a 2 1/2-minute video Thursday, made no mention of giving up in her most extensive public comments since losing the election. She said she is assembling lawyers and collecting evidence of voters having trouble casting ballots on Election Day while she considers her next move. Before the election, she had refused to say that she would concede if she lost the race to Hobbs.
Hobbs will have to make peace with the Republican-controlled Legislature, and she said she’s willing to work together – to a point.
“Republicans and Democrats will have an open door to my office so we can get to work, find bipartisan compromise, and deliver for the people of Arizona,” she said. “But for those of you who prefer to obstruct, spread misinformation, and continue to pursue an extreme agenda out of touch with this state, take note of the results of this election. Voters sent us a loud and clear message. They rejected the chaos because we have urgent problems, and they need and expect all of us to deliver.”
Abortion is one of the things Hobbs says she wants to deliver on. Currently, there’s an ongoing legal battle over whether that or a 15-week abortion ban passed earlier this year takes precedence in Arizona.
But abortion could be an initial test of Hobbs’ ability to flex her power with a GOP majority in both the Arizona House of Representatives and Senate. She said in interviews this week that she will call a special session on her first day in office to repeal the territory-era law, but Republicans in the Legislature haven’t indicated any interest in voting for a pro-choice policy, and there are also two pro-life Democrats who won office in this year’s elections.
Chuck Coughlin, a longtime GOP consultant, said Hobbs could push the Legislature to refer a ballot measure on abortion access and try to get some Republican support. But, he cautioned, “That’s a tough order.”
Brittany Fonteno, the president of Planned Parenthood Arizona, said that she wants to see the 1864 law repealed and for Hobbs to veto any additional abortion restrictions that Republican lawmakers put forward.
Plus, she said, “We’ll be making some asks of her and I think that some of those could include calling for a state of emergency in regard to abortion, (and) to provide additional resources to patients who are seeking care.”
Heading into Election Day, polls showed that Hobbs and Lake were locked in a dead heat, but the momentum was on Lake’s side. That has led a number of analysts to say that the Republican nominee lost a winnable race.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that Kari Lake lost this campaign,” Coughlin said.
“Politics is about addition, not subtraction, and she ran a campaign about subtraction. She ran a campaign about purity of spirit, conspiracy theories, telling McCain voters to go away, that if you’re not with her, you’re against her. And that’s just not a campaign,” he said.
“I think that our statewide slate of (Republican) candidates for the most part…they did not consolidate the Republican base,” said Daniel Scarpinato, a Republican strategist and former chief of staff to Gov. Doug Ducey. “I think they probably got more in the range of, you know, maybe 85% of Republicans, which is not good. You really can’t win a general election with that. And I suspect Hobbs may have gotten like, 98%, but probably at least 95%” of Democrats.
Still, Tony Cani, A Democratic consultant, said Hobbs wasn’t getting enough credit.
“She’s endured a lot of public criticism, from the media, and from individuals… I’ve said that the proof was always in the polling. She was talking to the voters that she needed to talk to,” he said.
“Katie Hobbs has been underestimated pretty much her entire career,” he added.