Political debate season in Arizona is likely to come and go with the two major parties’ gubernatorial nominees not meeting each other one-on-one due to Democratic nominee Katie Hobbs’ refusal to participate in a debate sponsored by the Citizens Clean Elections Commission.
With less than two weeks until Election Day, Hobbs’ decision has become the focal point of the campaign.
During the primary, Republican candidates for governor met in a debate on June 29. But Democratic primary voters were denied a similar multi-candidate forum, with Hobbs refusing to debate her primary opponent, former Nogales Mayor Marco Lopez, on June 30.
Throughout the general election campaign, Hobbs has continually refused to debate Lake, saying that Lake created a “circus” during a June Republican primary debate.
“She only wants a scenario where she can control the dialogue, and she’s refused to sit down in a one-on-one, lengthy conversation to really clarify with Arizonans where she is on the issues, ” Hobbs said.
Hobbs’ decision not to discuss her positions on the issues facing Arizona in a debate forum has dogged her campaign for weeks.
In an interview earlier this month with CNN’s Dana Bash, Hobbs repeated her well-worn line that her opponent “only wants a scenario where she can control the dialogue.”
That earned this response from Bash: “If you think she’s as dangerous as you’re saying to democracy, is it your responsibility as a candidate who wants to run Arizona to show and explain who their alternative is?”
Hobbs replied that voters would not base their decision on Election Day on whether she debated Lake.
The Citizens Clean Elections Act of 1998 says that candidates whose opposition refuses to debate can participate in a half-hour Q&A session in lieu of a debate.
AZ PBS, the TV station that has partnered with the Clean Elections Commission to broadcast debates, was set to host a long- scheduled solo interview with Lake on October 12, but the station announced that day that it had also scheduled an interview with Hobbs without the commission’s knowledge.
According to a statement by the Clean Elections Committee, Hobbs’ unsanctioned interview forced them to postpone Lake’s Q&A to another time.
“This decision is disappointing, especially following the multiple attempts on behalf of all the partners involved in producing this year’s General Election debates, to organize a traditional Gubernatorial debate between the two candidates,” the commission said. “The Commission and Arizona PBS followed the same process during the 2022 and 2018 Gubernatorial primaries. Thus today’s announcement broke from our shared practice.”
Following the cancellation, Lake held a press conference denouncing Hobbs’ “deal” with PBS to do a secret interview that violates the commission’s rules. She also once again expressed her desire to debate Hobbs
“I wanted Katie Hobbs to show up. I was hoping I would show up today and she would be here,” she said. “Then I find out late this afternoon that PBS did a go-around.”