Katie Hobbs is 'chicken' for ducking Az gov debate, Kari Lake campaign claims
Democratic candidate for governor Katie Hobbs is being hammered by her opponent’s campaign, after she for the second time declined to participate in a televised debate with Republican Kari Lake. While the Lake campaign called Hobbs a “chicken” for opting out of the debate, some Democrats said that declining the debate was a smart move.
Hobbs, who was elected secretary of state in 2018, sent a letter to the Citizens Clean Elections Commission on Sunday saying she would not participate in the commission’s debate, which was scheduled for Oct. 12 and will be aired on Arizona PBS.
“Unfortunately, debating a conspiracy theorist like Kari Lake — whose entire campaign platform is to cause enormous chaos and make Arizona the subject of national ridicule — would only lead to constant interruptions, pointless distractions, and childish name-calling,” the Hobbs campaign said in the letter.
Lake is a former local TV journalist whose campaign was launched around her embrace of the “Big Lie” that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from former President Donald Trump.
Lake’s campaign on Sunday tweeted a photo of a chicken with a caption saying that the Arizona Democratic Party was happy to present its candidate for governor. Later that day the campaign tweeted “You can sum up Katie Hobbs in three sounds: Bawk, Bawk, Bawk.”
Hobbs’ campaign manager Nicole DeMont previously told the Clean Elections Commission that the campaign did not believe Lake was interested in a fair and substantive debate.
Democratic strategist Rodd McLeod believes that deciding not to debate Lake was a good call.
“What Katie Hobbs has done here has been to say ‘Yeah, I’m not going to engage with a bad faith actor in a bad faith situation,’” he told the Arizona Mirror.
In an initial letter to the commission on Sept. 2, in which Hobbs declined a traditional debate and proposed that she and Lake both do separate televised interviews with a journalist, Hobbs said she didn’t want to be part of a spectacle like the Republican gubernatorial primary debate.
During that debate, also hosted by the Clean Elections Commission, candidates repeatedly interrupted and spoke over one another.
“I’d actually like to ask everybody on this stage if they would agree we had a corrupt, stolen election, raise your hand,” Lake said during the Republican primary debate.
Later in the debate, Lake said she felt like she was on a “Saturday Night Live” skit and offered to take control from moderator and veteran journalist Ted Simons.
McLeod believes that Hobbs’ suggestion for separate interviews was a good strategy, but the Clean Elections Commission last week declined that request. The commission then gave Hobbs seven more days to agree to the terms of a debate. Just three days later, she rejected the debate format entirely.
McLeod doesn’t think that most voters learn about gubernatorial candidates from televised debates.
“Katie Hobbs doing local media appearances and running television ads is definitely going to reach more people than the number of people who are tuning into an hour-long debate,” he said.
Hobbs also declined to participate in the Democratic primary debate in June, citing scheduling conflicts. Her opponent, Marco Lopez, offered to reschedule the debate, but Hobbs didn’t take him up on it.
The Hobbs campaign said that in the absence of a debate, she is continuing the second leg of her “Solutions Can’t Wait” tour through northern Arizona.
“I am continuing to meet voters where they are and listen to the pressing issues they’re facing,” Hobbs said in a statement to the Mirror. “From the rising cost of groceries to securing our water future and protecting reproductive freedom, these are problems that can’t wait. And I have plans to tackle them all head on as the next Governor.”
The Hobbs campaign refused to give on-the-record answers to follow-up questions from the Mirror.
On Monday Lake’s campaign sent a letter to the commission, confirming that she still planned to participate in a televised question and answer session on Oct. 12, in place of a debate. She also asked the commission to again extend the deadline for Hobbs to agree to a debate.
“It is our hope that Hobbs will have a change of heart and find the courage between now and October 12th to join Kari Lake on the debate stage and have a real discussion about the issues facing Arizona, their plans to address them, and their visions for our state’s future,” the Lake campaign said in the letter.
This report was first published by the Arizona Mirror.