While Gov. Katie Hobbs said Jan. 9 her door “will always be open” for anyone ready to make progress for Arizona, many Republicans think she slammed it on them.
Several Republicans belonging to the Freedom Caucus walked out of Hobbs’ State of the State Address while two others stood with backs turned to her.
House Speaker Ben Toma, R-Peoria, said in separate interviews with the KAET-Channel 8 and the Arizona Capitol Times that her speech was partisan and included loaded and misleading statements.
He said in the television interview on Jan. 10 he hopes the tone of her office changes.
“My initial reaction was more something you would hear (in) a DNC speech, not necessarily a State of the State, which I get that there’s a value to that perhaps for one side of the aisle,” Toma said to PBS. “But for the other side of the aisle, I’m not sure what it accomplished.”
During Hobbs’ speech, Democrats gave several standing ovations and Republicans largely sat silent, but the walkout by several GOP lawmakers and snub by Sen. Justine Wadsack, R-Tucson, and Sen. Anthony Kern, R-Glendale, spoke loudly and contrasted with Toma’s and Senate President Warren Petersen’s calls before the speech for civility.
“We should not get sidetracked with theater, but instead use the divinely inspired process,” Petersen, a Gilbert Republican, said on the Senate floor. “I hope that the next two years mark a season of greater decorum.
My desire is that each of us treat each other with dignity and respect.”
The Freedom Caucus issued a written statement shortly after the speech that said Hobbs promoted “radical, woke policy initiatives.”
“We’re seeing a new breed of Democratic Fascism to take hold of the Governor’s office,” Arizona Freedom Caucus leader Sen. Jake Hoffman said in the statement. “Hobbs’ preference to illegally legislate via executive order is concerning in its own right; however, her willingness to exploit the levers of power in our state to implement the left’s extreme, woke agenda elevates her actions to tyrannical.”
Toma said on PBS that he didn’t justify the demonstration, but he understood the response because most of the walkouts happened after Hobbs had said 90% of Arizonans supported access to abortion.
“I’m a firm believer in the institution and in the decorum that we must maintain,” Toma said. “But, let’s be honest here, that’s what triggered the response.”
Toma said that some of Hobbs’ points were misleading.
“An overwhelming majority of Arizonans — more than 90 percent, in fact — believe abortion should be legal,” Hobbs said.
Hoffman cited this as the reason he walked out. He interpreted her statement to mean that Hobbs wants all abortions to be legal up to the moment of birth, although she did not clarify that.
Hobbs didn’t cite any statistics to back up her statement. The PEW Research Center released a poll in May showing that 90% of Democrats in the United States (not Arizona) want abortion to be legal in “all/most” cases.
Toma also said he took issue when Hobbs said the empowerment scholarship account program would “bankrupt” the state. That program was opened to all Arizona students in a bill Toma sponsored last year.
On Jan. 11, Toma told the Arizona Capitol Times that he felt Hobbs delivered a loaded statement when she called for transparency and accountability with the ESA program to try and turn it into public education. He added that improvements to the program would occur naturally as parents find schools that fit their children and their needs the most.
“That is sort of antithetical to the idea of school choice to begin with,” Toma said. “There is accountability. This is a free market system. … Parents are going to act much quicker than any sort of system will.”
Minority House Leader Andrés Cano, D-Tucson, and Minority Senate Leader Raquel Terán, R-Phoenix, said the demonstrations were immature and noted that while they disagreed with many of the points in former Gov. Doug Ducey’s State of the State speeches, they kept their seats.
“Our priorities, our four pillars, are; the economy, education, environment and equity for all. And she talked about all those four pillars. We are thrilled and are looking forward to working with her and ensuring that we push these issues that are on top of mind,” Terán said.
As of Jan. 11, Terán said she won’t pursue penalties for the members who walked.
“Just two hours before [the speech], President Petersen and Speaker Toma gave speeches of the importance of civility and civil discourse. And so, it’s a contradiction to what they had said. But at the end of the day, we know that in order to move anything here in the state of Arizona, we’re going to need the governor to sign bills,” she said, calling the move “childish.”
The demonstration was not perceived well by other Republicans either. Former Rep. Joel John from Buckeye said on Jan. 10 that he thought the demonstration display was “juvenile,” “immature” and “petty.”
John was in the Legislature with current Republican leadership, and he said those and any similar future actions could turn leaders and lobbyists away when bills are negotiated before being sent to Hobbs’ desk.
“(They’re) not trying to solve problems but just trying to just cause a stir or create a scene,” John said.
Former House Speaker Kirk Adams wrote in a tweet the day after the address: “The performative protest culture that used to be the exclusive domain of the far left has now been adopted by some on the right. Sad!”
House and Senate majority leaders Rep. Leo Biasiucci, R-Lake Havasu; and Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu, outlined some policy plans in response to Hobbs shortly after the speech in a YouTube video.
“Not once did we hear Governor Hobbs mention the reality of the situation many of our citizens are finding themselves in as they live paycheck to paycheck,” Biasiucci said in the video. “A narrow proposal to cut sales tax on diapers and hygiene items alone will not solve the historic inflation families are dealing with today.”
They additionally guaranteed that they would address the aggregate expenditure limit, which stands to block public schools from spending $1.3 billion that was allocated by the previous Legislature. Biasiucci did note that Republicans wouldn’t rush the process.
“She does not want a policy discussion but hasty action for political points,” Borrelli said of Hobbs. “We will not be sidetracked or bullied for political gain.”