Arizona Democratic secretary of state joins governor race

FILE - In this Dec. 14, 2020, file photo, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs addresses the members of Arizona's Electoral College in Phoenix. Hobbs on Wednesday, June 2, 2021, announced her candidacy for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2022 while denouncing the Republican-controlled state Senate's ongoing audit of the 2020 presidential election. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool, File) (Ross D. Franklin, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

PHOENIX – Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs on Wednesday announced her candidacy for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2022 while denouncing the Republican-controlled state Senate's ongoing audit of the 2020 presidential election that has brought her national prominence.

Hobbs said in a statement she was running “to deliver transparency, accountability, and results for Arizonans" and would work as governor to “put aside our differences and work to solve the serious problems facing Arizona.”

In an interview, she said she will have the resources to win a primary and general election and called herself a proven statewide leader who can work across the aisle.

“Arizonans are tired of the partisanship,” Hobbs said. “We are currently being led by a group of conspiracy theorists who are not in touch with everyday Arizonans, and that is holding us back. And I’ve always been able to break through that and get things done.”

The Republican-led Arizona Senate’s recount of election results and review of ballot counting machines in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, was launched as supporters of former President Donald Trump criticized President Joe Biden's narrow win in the state and suggested without evidence that the election was stolen.

As the state's chief election officer since winning office in 2018, Hobbs' defense of the state's election systems after the 2020 election has been broad and vocal and has included frequent appearances on national media.

She has heavily criticized the unsubstantiated allegations that Biden won in Arizona because of fraud or other problems and brought in independent observers to view the partisan recount now underway. She said she expects Trump and his backers to continue to raise doubts but said she'll continue “to tell the truth about the election, which that is that it was a free and fair election.”

“It is a partisan attack on free and fair elections, and reasonable people understand that,” Hobbs said. “The folks who don’t, are never going to believe anything I say.”

Hobbs also was a defendant in a series of lawsuits brought by Trump backers seeking to overturn the 2020 election results, putting her at odds with the Republican attorney general and some GOP lawmakers. The Republican-dominated state Legislature has moved to strip her of the means to defend lawsuits by removing her ability to hire outside lawyers. She vowed to fight that effort if it is included in the final state budget proposal.

“It doesn’t just strip me of the ability to hire outside counsel, it strips me of any legal say at all, and it strips me of duties that are assigned in the (Arizona) constitution,” Hobbs said. “So what they are doing is blatantly unconstitutional, and if they do pass it, there will be a legal fight.”

She also touted her success in running the 2020 election in the midst of a global pandemic and as Trump fed voters “misinformation” about the election, which saw historic turnout.

“And we did our jobs, and we ensured that Arizona voters could vote, and that they didn’t have to choose between their freedom to vote and their health and safety,” she said. “And that’s what I’ll bring to the governor’s office.”

In a video announcing her candidacy, Hobbs ticked off a series of accomplishments as a lawmaker and as secretary of state, saying she wanted to work to make Arizonans' lives better. She vowed to rebuild the state economy after COVID-19, invest in health care and education and ensure that all state residents have the same ability to get ahead.

Although Arizona has been ruled by Republicans for more than a decade, Democrats made inroads in the last two elections, and Biden’s presidential win was the first since Bill Clinton took Arizona in 1996.

The state's most recent Democratic governor was Janet Napolitano, who was elected in 2002 and again in 2006 before leaving in early 2009 after then-President Barack Obama appointed her as Homeland Security secretary.

Hobbs was a member of the state House and Senate for six years and served as minority leader of the Senate for two years before running for her current office in 2018. She was trailing on election night, but she won her current post by less than 1% of the vote.

Term limits bar current Republican Gov. Doug Ducey from running again in 2022.

The only other Democrat in the race so far is Marco Lopez, a former mayor of the border city of Nogales, who rose rapidly to a senior position in Obama’s administration. He joined the race in March — kicking off his campaign with videos in English and Spanish that highlight his Nogales, Arizona, roots and described an Arizona he said was held back by Ducey's leadership failures.

“My message is very simple — if we have healthy families, good education and quality jobs, Arizona thrives,” Lopez said at the time. “Sadly, that’s not the case for many, many families in the state today.”

The son of Mexican immigrants, Lopez returned to Nogales after college and was elected mayor at age 22. He went on to serve Napolitano as head of the cross-border nonprofit Arizona-Mexico Commission that promotes economic prosperity and led the Arizona Department of Commerce.

On the Republican side, state Treasurer Kimberly Yee and developer Karrin Taylor Robson announced plans last month to seek the Republican nomination. Former Phoenix television news anchor Kari Lake entered the GOP race on Tuesday.


Associated Press writer Paul Davenport contributed to this report from Phoenix.