The Arizona Republic

Hobbs pledges $500K to defeat GOP

Governor takes aim at Republican lawmakers

- Ray Stern

Tired of what she described as “political games,” Gov. Katie Hobbs significan­tly escalated the conflict with Republican lawmakers Tuesday, promising to spend $500,000 to turn the Legislatur­e blue in 2024.

Hobbs and the Legislatur­e have gotten off to an all-around rocky start. Republican­s, who hold a razor-thin, onevote majority in the House and Senate, are dealing with a Democrat in the governor’s seat for the first time in about 15 years while Democrats are getting used to wielding that power.

Hobbs vetoed a GOP-backed state budget Thursday and has criticized or said she would veto other bills, like those that would criminaliz­e some drag-show performanc­es.

Republican­s have held up or voted down some of Hobbs’ nominees for state agency leadership posts and some have said they are preparing for a government shutdown this summer, anticipati­ng that lawmakers and the governor won’t find common ground on a budget for the next fiscal year.

“We intend to hold these extremist legislator­s accountabl­e for being uncompromi­sing obstructio­nists, and we’re confident their constituen­ts will agree,” Nicole DeMont, Hobbs’ chief political strategist, said of the $500,000 in spending in a written statement.

Yet the timing of the announceme­nt brought criticism in itself. Hobbs needs at least some Republican­s to pass a budget, but the new “Flip the Leg” fund provides a potential disincenti­ve to work with her.

“We obviously know that she is going to work to have her own majority and nobody knows that better than people like me who represent a swing district,” said Sen. T.J. Shope, R-Coolidge. “But the publicity around the announceme­nt definitely doesn’t match (Hobbs’) rhetoric about working together.”

In contrast, Rep. David Cook, RGlobe, said he didn’t see the announceme­nt as a big deal. The reality is that neither the slim Republican majority nor Hobbs will get everything they want this year, and Hobbs is merely “stating the obvious,” if not doing Republican­s a favor, he said.

The threat tells Republican­s, “you’d better be making plans and adjusting

and doing whatever you need to do on your side as a party,” Cook said, adding that the new Arizona Republican Party chair, Jeff DeWit, “should be taking note.”

The dysfunctio­nal relationsh­ip between Republican­s and the new governor has played out with gamesmansh­ip over the budget in their first few weeks together, with Republican­s passing a “skinny” budget that ignored the spending priorities Hobbs included in her own proposed budget. Hobbs told Republican­s in advance that she would veto their plan, but they sent it to her regardless.

Senate President Warren Petersen defended his Republican peers, saying they passed a “responsibl­e budget” that focused on providing relief against inflation, protecting the state’s water supply and other benefits. Hobbs’ threats won’t change Republican plans for a budget, he said.

“We will continue to be the adults in the room,” Petersen said. “I think we can get another budget up soon.”

The money won’t come from Hobbs’ inaugural fund, which raised about $1.5 million and brought questions about transparen­cy as details about how much money each sponsor donated are still unclear.

DeMont told The Arizona Republic that the $500,000 was raised in the past three weeks.

Hobbs didn’t answer questions directly about the plan Tuesday; her staff said she would not take questions at an afternoon meeting with abortion advocates that was open to reporters.

A news release about the effort to defeat Republican­s boasted that Hobbs had raised $40 million for her campaign, 94% of which came from contributi­ons of less than $100. Hobbs’ campaign consultant Joe Wolf said the figure includes the $14 million she raised for herself and $26 million in donations to the Democratic Party for her campaign that she helped generate.

Wolf said the contributi­ons will get reported to the state’s campaign-finance system — when 2024 campaign reports are due on Jan. 1.

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