Meet the Secretary of State candidates: Steve Gaynor and Katie Hobbs

With incumbent Michele Reagan’s (R) loss in the primary election, Arizona is destined for a new face in the Secretary of State seat.

The race is between Steve Gaynor (R) and Katie Hobbs (D), and according to an OH Predictive Insights report, it’s going to be close.

Gaynor currently holds 42.2 percent of the votes, Hobbs holds 38.7 percent, and 18.8 percent of voters are undecided.

Republican Steve Gaynor

Prior to running for office, Gaynor worked in business for almost 40 years. He worked in a number of industries before purchasing a small printing company in west Phoenix in 1988. Staying in the printing business, in the early 2000s he bought a printing plant in Denver and started his own in Los Angeles.

He decided to run for the Secretary of State’s office because multiple friends and colleagues encouraged him to do so and he believed that he could bring valuable experience in growing companies, as well as, turning around troubled enterprises.

“I just felt that the people deserved competence in the Secretary of State office because voting is a very important process in our society, [and it] wasn’t being handled well. I knew based on my business background I could turn the office around,” Gaynor said.

On top of that, Gaynor says his unique experience in the printing industry has helped him learn a lot about document security, information technology, and gives him an extensive knowledge of the law.

Here’s where Gaynor stands on the issues:

Election Security

“I believe that using paper ballots is an important component of election security. I am not in favor of electronic voting,” Gaynor said. “I think that’s an invitation for disaster. There is a lot of potential for difficulty if the computers of the state or counties are attacked. I think the counties, especially in the smaller ones, need help in securing their information technology. It’s important because these counties access the state computers so the whole system needs to be secure and that’s something that I would make a priority if I were elected.”

Voter Participation

Gaynor says that he would encourage his department to hold voter registration drives that encourage young people to register and participate in elections. However, he thinks that the Secretary of State’s office is limited in their impact on voter participation.

“If people are not motivated by political campaigns, the Secretary of State, while it’s important that people vote, the ability of the Secretary of State to impact voter participation is somewhat limited,” Gaynor said. “[So] it’s not so much increase voter registration as [much as] working with the counties to make that process uniform and secure.”

Gaynor says a problem area he will be paying attention to is the interface difference between the County Recorder’s offices and the Motor Vehicle Division.

Working with County Recorders 

“Well, I think the most important thing there is to establish a good working relationship. I’ve already started that process. I’ve met many of the county recorders and election directors and started a working relationship with them,” Gaynor said. “I think the secretary of state can help in certain cases overcome problems or obstacles that exist at the county level. I think it needs to be a cooperative effort between the secretary of state and county officials to develop [election] rules and procedures and implement them.”

Helping Businesses

“One thing I would like to see happen is that the process for creating a corporate entity and the process of getting a trademark or trade name for that entity be streamlined so that you can go to one location, preferably a website [to complete all forms] in an efficient way,” Gaynor said. “Eventually I would also like to see the UCC filing process become an internet function.”

Campaign Funding/Independent Expenditures

“The disclosure of contributions of 501(C)3 and (C)4 organizations is governed by federal law. To that extent, if those contributions are made in compliance with those laws then contributors are generally, under IRS rules, not disclosed. That’s something that has been and will continue to be observed.”

Gaynor believes he is prepared to take over as governor if needed. He says that the highest priority of the Governor’s office is to make sure private enterprises thrive. He says that would be a focus for him, as well as education funding, public safety, and water.

“The state and the region is in a long-term drought and we’re approaching the point where the drought could start to have an impact on us as a state, so it would certainly be an area of attention for me,” he said.

Lastly, Gaynor added, “if I’m elected my intention is to see to it that the voters, and the county officials are well-served, that there’s a good relationship with the county officials and that they’re treated professionally. The Secretary of State’s office needs to perform at a high level so that voters have confidence, that the election process is sound, and the integrity of the results is unimpeachable.”

Democrat Katie Hobbs

Prior to her time as an elected official, Hobbs worked as a social worker for more than 25 years. She was elected to the Arizona House of Representatives in 2010 and moved to the state Senate in 2012.

According to Hobbs, she decided to run for Secretary of State because she spent her entire career, as both a social worker and elected official, trying to make the government work better for Arizonans. She believes elections are the core of our democracy and that the Secretary of State’s office needs someone who can properly handle them.

“I ran because I wanted to fix that and be a champion for the voters and make sure that every single eligible voter was able to cast their ballot, and that’s why I’m here,” Hobbs said.

In her time as a social worker, Hobbs was the chief compliance officer of one of the largest domestic abuse shelters in the country, where she made sure the shelter complied with the laws and regulations that came with the money it received. She thinks her experience in that field combined with her leadership in the state Senate prepares her well to be Secretary of State.

Hobbs says she “brings the perspective of someone who’s a social worker and has really spent time trying to make government work better for the people of Arizona.”

Here’s where Hobbs stands on the issues:

Election Security 

“I plan on day one to put together an election security task force, including all the county recorders and other relevant stakeholders and election security experts,” Hobbs said. “It’s not just the technology pieces, it’s the voter registration system, the e-poll book system and anything related to the voting machines vulnerability. Also, on the back end, how we ensure with our hand count audits of the paper ballots [that there isn’t] tampering of the election. That is something that could use a lot of improvement in Arizona in terms of how we conduct those.”

Voter Participation

According to Hobbs, “people don’t trust the system, they don’t have confidence, and they don’t think that their vote matters. So, we have to make sure that we’re getting it right and that every voter is able to participate in a way that’s meaningful and convenient to them.”

Hobbs says the biggest way to solve this problem is by having a leader in the Secretary of State’s office.

“I think that the Secretary has failed in leadership on these issues,” Hobbs said. “The county recorders need someone in the Secretary of State office who’s going to have their back, make sure that they have the resources that they need and make sure that there are plans in place so that if something doesn’t go right, there’s a backup and voters have a seamless process in elections.”

She also thinks that voters need to be better educated on early voting, as well as making early voting more accessible. She believes that on top of increasing new voter engagement efforts, restoring voter confidence and making elections a seamless process will help increase both voter participation and registration.

Working with County Recorders

Hobbs believes the way to ensure smooth primary and general elections is by working in a collaborative way with county recorders.

“[With] the current secretary it’s well known that there are not good relationships with the county recorders. I’ve already been reaching out [and] I plan on day one to start building those relationships, to work collaboratively with them and to [be] a leader to make sure that everyone has everything that they need on election day to make sure that things go smoothly.”

Helping Businesses

“I think that this is an area that doesn’t get a lot of focus,” Hobbs said. “What I’ve heard from almost every single stakeholder is that things are not running smoothly. I think a big area where we can actually make some difference is I plan on day one to order a top to bottom review of all the areas of the office that need improvement. Then put together an action plan of how to do that and every step along the way engaging stakeholders in the process.”

She gave the example of fixing how companies file for trademarks. She says she will engage the users of the system to make it more effective.

“It seems like a really small thing, but that trademark is part of their business; it’s important and we need to make it work right so that businesses have a seamless experience and not have all this red tape,” she said.

Campaign Finance/Independent Expenditures

“I think that there is a lot of room for reform in campaign finance. Obviously, there’s laws in place and as Secretary of State, I would be elected to uphold those laws and I would plan to do that. I think that our system does give some advantage with bigger dollars and I think that voters deserve to know who is trying to influence our elections.”

Hobbs also noted that she believes that she is prepared to become governor if that were needed.

“I think the Legislature is the best arena that there is to prepare for that. I’ve been there for eight years, in the trenches, dealing with the most pressing issues of our state,” she said. “I think that [the voters] deserve someone in the Secretary of State’s office who wants that job [and] I want to make it clear that I absolutely do want the job as Secretary of State, but they also deserve to be electing someone who is ready to step into the Governor’s office should it happen.”

Lastly, Hobbs commented on the Arizona State Archives, which she believes is an important, but often forgotten, part of the Secretary of State’s job.

According to Hobbs, “Arizona’s library used to be a model. It’s not anymore and I want to work to bring it back to that place. Under Secretary Reagan, there’s been entire collections that have been discarded and that’s really a tragedy for the history of our state.”

Emily Richardson

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