Democrat Kris Mayes and Republican Abraham Hamadeh, their parties’ respective nominees for Arizona Attorney General for the November election, presented their divergent views at a forum hosted by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry last Thursday.
For one hour the candidates answered questions from moderator Mike Bailey, general counsel for the Arizona Chamber and the former U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona.
While intended to be a forum and not a formal debate, the candidates didn’t hesitate to throw barbs at one another as Mayes and Hamadeh each made their pitches to the Arizona business community.
Mayes, who was a Republican until 2019, began by discussing her experience and achievements in her role as an Arizona Corporation Commissioner, an office she held from 2003-2010.
“This is a very important year for our democracy,” Mayes said. “I am running for Attorney General because I do believe that we must have an AG who stands up for the rule of law, who stands up for our constitution, who stands up for America’s constitution and who will participate in the certification of fair and free election that we have in this state.”
Hamadeh, the Republican nominee, is the son of Syrian immigrants, a former Maricopa County prosecutor and a former U.S. Army intelligence officer who served a 14-month-long deployment to Saudi Arabia.
“What we need at the Attorney General’s Office is a leader,” said Hamadeh. “I think leadership skills being in the military proves that, and what I was doing in Saudi Arabia, you know, punching way above my weight negotiating with foreign governments.”
Both candidates covered several important topics including abortion, vaccination mandates, and the certification of the 2020 presidential election.
Managing the Attorney General’s Office
The candidates were asked how they would manage the AG’s Office and the various departments within the purview of the state’s top law enforcement official.
Hamadeh said that there are some executive level agencies, like Child Services, that the AG must represent. He also mentioned that he viewed the AG as someone generally empowered to enforce the law, not create new laws.
“I generally see the role of the Attorney General in executing the mission of those agencies,” he said. Hamadeh acknowledged that he may disagree with some of the policies he would be implementing, but that there would only be certain avenues for him to provide policy input.
Mayes cited former Republican Attorney General Grant Woods, saying that “there is an important role for the Attorney General in leading from within or even leading from behind with state agencies and to helping to guide them through some of the difficult questions that they are facing from a constitution standpoint.”
The candidates were asked about their view on elections, and how they would handle potential challenges to the legitimacy of an election.
“We must support our election system. American democracy runs through Arizona,” Mayes said. She claimed that Hamadeh and Republicans like him have sought to delegitimize the democratic process, positioning herself as a “stability” candidate. “Business depends on stability,” she said.
Hamadeh pushed back against Mayes’ claims questioning his fitness on election matters.
“I think it’s important that we regain the confidence of our elections, and what you saw in the primary in Pinal County is unacceptable,” said Hamadeh referring to the August primary election in Pinal County, which was marred by some polling places not having enough paper ballots for voters. “When they run out of ballots for Republican voters, that’s a civil rights violation in my opinion. So, of course, we should have free, fair, and honest elections and that’s exactly what I’ve been calling for, and what the job of AG should be.”
Moderator Bailey asked the candidates about companies imposing vaccine mandates on their employees and other public health measures.
The Republican nominee Hamadeh said, “The ultimate job of a government is to secure your liberties and your rights.” He said that if a business violates someone’s civil liberties,, it was the role of the AG to protect them from the business’ mandate.
Mayes said employers could require employees to be vaccinated. “Of course they can. It is a private business,” she said.
Asked about the proper exercise of power under Arizona’s Consumer Fraud Protection Act, Mayes said that she will implement the traditional definition of unfair trade practices and go after consumer fraud in a way similar to how many AGs have in the past. Hamadeh said he believes that Arizona’s consumer fraud protection act is one of the most powerful laws of its kind in the country, and that the AG should first seek cooperation from offending parties before pursuing investigations and litigation.
The attorney general’s term is four years. Early voting begins October 12 and Election Day is Nov. 8.