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AZ Clean Elections Commission silent on Hobbs request for separate town halls

Katie Hobbs wins Democratic nominee for Arizona governor
Posted at 5:54 PM, Sep 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-06 21:46:10-04

PHOENIX — Democratic candidate for Governor Katie Hobbs will soon learn how important debating is.

Hobbs said no to the invitation from the Arizona Clean Elections Commission to debate Republican candidate Kari Lake.

Hobbs is the first governor's candidate to decline an invitation since the Commission began hosting televised debates in 2002.

On Wednesday, Lake and Hobbs will appear at the Arizona Chamber of Commerce's 2022 gubernatorial candidate forum.

It's not a debate.

The candidates will take the stage separately and speak directly to Chamber members about their policy priorities.

It may be the only time Lake and Hobbs are in the same room together leading to the November election.

Hobbs proposed the two candidates each do a 30-minute interview with moderator Ted Simons. Opening and closing statements will be included.

Republican political consultant Stan Barnes says whether there is a governor's debate or not may not even matter.

"There's a healthy amount of voters that will cast their ballot in November that will have no idea up until the time they cast their ballot that there was or wasn't a debate. So, they won't judge Katie Hobbs harshly or otherwise because they just won't know," Barnes said.

Over the years the Clean Election debates have been informative, insightful and at times embarrassing.

In 2010, Governor Jan Brewer lost her train of thought during her opening statement and went silent for more than 10 seconds, but the gaff did not cost her the election.

"The average voter is making a holistic value judgment about their candidate who they decide to support. In part, based on key issues that the voter feels are important," Barnes said, "but much more, it's about likability, perception and all the soft side not the hard side."

Barnes believes the Hobbs campaign decided it's better to take the political hit early by declining to debate rather than have their candidate on stage with Kari Lake.

"Do we want to take the pain of standing on the stage with someone very good at putting it to you verbally," Barnes added.

The Clean Elections Commission has not responded to the Hobbs proposal.

Democratic political consultant Tony Valdovinos of La Machine Consulting says the Hobbs proposal makes the most sense for voters.

"Folks would rather vote for somebody that is going to really focus on policy moving the state forward versus fueling rhetoric that splits the community in a negative way," Valdovinos said.

That may be true, but Hobbs refused to debate her primary opponent Marco Lopez and that does allow voters to wonder if the Democratic candidate won't debate because she can't debate.