There’s more to Katie Hobbs than anyone understood (including media, MAGA and Democrats)

AZ Central – The Arizona Republic

There’s more to Katie Hobbs than anyone understood (including media, MAGA and Democrats)

Phil Boas, Arizona Republic – November 15, 2022

Finally, the wait is over! Katie Hobbs is the next governor of Arizona, and Trump Republicanism suffers another major defeat.

The MAGA energy that swept Kari Lake to victory in her primary has become hemlock in general elections.

Lake joins the list of hapless MAGA candidates who lost the governor’s offices in Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York and now Arizona.

Donald Trump recently boasted he created the modern Republican brand. Well, today the modern Republican brand is what, Edsel? Polaroid? Enron?


It’s Old Hat.

Many of us dismissed Katie Hobbs

The temptation will be great to say Hobbs didn’t win the governor’s seat. Kari Lake lost it. Had Lake run as a normal Republican with her polished delivery and anchorwoman looks she’d be recarpeting the hallways right now on the Ninth Floor.

But let’s give Hobbs her due. This was a candidate widely underestimated by not only the Republicans but the media and even her own party, the Democrats.

Hobbs vs. Lake: Arizona’s politically purple credentials are hard to top

Soft-spoken and understated, she was dismissed from the beginning as a lightweight and novice filled with self-doubt and struggling to find the right words in front of TV cameras. She stuck with her much-maligned strategy (that also took criticism from this corner) to skip debates in the primary and general elections.

Many of us said that was wrong. She’s not meeting the moment.

What we didn’t know was that Hobbs had a brought a sledgehammer of her own to this race. She used it to smash conventional wisdom.

But Democrats have real reason to celebrate

Now that Hobbs has won the all-important Arizona governor’s race, Democrats are aglow. They should be.

To call what happened in Arizona and nationally a “red ripple” suggests the Republicans eked out a victory that could have been much larger. But this was not a Republican win. It was an indisputable and historic triumph for the Democratic Party and its candidates.

In a year when inflation was pushing up the price of milk and eggs, when the Democratic president was drowning in dismal approval ratings, when border crossings were at record highs and urban crime was beginning to scare people, the liberal party defied predictions and proved it is more in tune with the American people than its rival.

In fact, the Democrats pulled off the best midterm performance in 20 years by the party holding the White House, The New York Times reported.

Democrats retained control of the Senate, and lost the House by such a fine margin, Republicans will be dancing with the devil trying to manage it.

Beneath the angst, Katie Hobbs has steel
Gubernatorial candidate Katie Hobbs speaks as the Arizona Democratic Party hosts a Unity Rally with statewide candidates to energize Democratic voters and volunteers ahead of the November election at Carpenters Union Hall on Saturday, Aug. 27, 2022.
Gubernatorial candidate Katie Hobbs speaks as the Arizona Democratic Party hosts a Unity Rally with statewide candidates to energize Democratic voters and volunteers ahead of the November election at Carpenters Union Hall on Saturday, Aug. 27, 2022.

In Arizona, Democrats could not wait to start their well-earned gloating. Lobbyist and former state lawmaker Chris Herstam got the jump on it Sunday night by picking a Twitter fight with me:

“@boas_phil’s so-called “leftists” have done quite well in the midterm (in Arizona & DC). Arizona Democrats will do even better in ‘24 with a presidential election turnout & a reproductive freedom initiative on the ballot.”

I bring this up to illustrate just what a long haul this has been for Hobbs and to show that beneath all the surface angst and insecurity, Katie Hobbs has some steel.

Herstam’s tweet reminded me that from the very beginning Hobbs had to endure attacks from a large part of the Democratic establishment.

When she got into the race, Herstam tried to bury her campaign.

He pointed loudly to a recent jury verdict that found that Democratic legislative leadership had discriminated against Senate aide Talonya Adams when they fired her in 2015.

Hobbs faced a torrent of criticism

Hobbs was Senate Democratic leader at the time, so she faced a storm of criticism.

“I think she’s in real trouble,” Herstam told KJZZ radio. “Katie Hobbs needs to apologize profusely and compassionately, and she hasn’t really done that yet.

“Frankly, she should have apologized very directly when she announced her candidacy.  … And she didn’t do so. … That was a bonehead political move by her team.”

Herstam at the time was plumping the potential candidacy of U.S. Rep. Greg Stanton, the former Phoenix mayor who had not yet decided to skip the gubernatorial race.

“The anti-Hobbs storm, it’s still to come,” said Herstam, predicting the Republicans would run ads on the discrimination verdict. “They will be a real blow to her candidacy, as well as the entire Democratic ticket.”

Republicans ran with the ‘bigot’ theme

Herstam was prescient in one sense. The Republicans did pick up the “Hobbs is a bigot” theme. They got the idea from Democrats.

Then Kari Lake took her chainsaw to Hobbs: “I think a lot of people don’t realize she’s a twice-convicted racist.”

No. Hobbs was never convicted. Never charged. This was a civil case, not criminal. Chainsaws are poor instruments for making such distinctions.

Still, it’s worth remembering that before Republicans got to Hobbs many Democrats were on a tear.

Even Democrats criticized her in the primary

Five high-profile leaders of the Phoenix African American community put out this statement: “We ask that all persons, especially people of color, reconsider any support for Katie Hobbs to become the next governor of Arizona.”

Understand that this was during the social upheaval sparked by the police killing of George Floyd. Feelings were raw. And a number of Democrats were working hard to destroy her campaign.

Warren Stewart, once a centrist Democrat who morphed into a sharper-edged social-justice hawk, said he was done with Hobbs.

“I’m at a place where I am not impressed by apologies and videos,” Stewart told CNN in January. “I think the most noble thing that Katie could do is to step down and wait until she has proven herself as a leader.”

We shouldn’t underestimate Hobbs again

Now that Hobbs has won the main prize in Arizona’s 2022 election, many will forget the onslaught she survived just to get her party’s nomination.

They’ll forget she showed up for the fight as other big-name Democrats demurred. That she fought through all the insults from her own party before Kari Lake fired her artillery.

It’s one thing to bring Kari Lake-level confidence to an election, throwing flames and spitting nails. It’s another to wrestle down your self-doubt every day before you armor up to compete.

Hobbs could not match the smooth delivery of Kari Lake and always seemed self-conscious of it.

She looked like she was fighting through private doubts that may have been her most formidable opponent. And yet she stayed with it. No one was going to push her out.

That takes guts.

And we would all do well never to underestimate her again.

Phil Boas is an editorial columnist with The Arizona Republic. 

Author: John Hanno

Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. Bogan High School. Worked in Alaska after the earthquake. Joined U.S. Army at 17. Sergeant, B Battery, 3rd Battalion, 84th Artillery, 7th Army. Member of 12 different unions, including 4 different locals of the I.B.E.W. Worked for fortune 50, 100 and 200 companies as an industrial electrician, electrical/electronic technician.