Sen. Mark Kelly agrees to debate; fellow Democrat Katie Hobbs seeks new format

Sep 2, 2022, 12:35 PM | Updated: 3:14 pm

From left, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly (Twitter Photos)...

From left, Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly (Twitter Photos)

(Twitter Photos)

PHOENIX – U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly has agreed to debate his Republican challenger next month. Will fellow Democrat Katie Hobbs do the same?

The Citizens Clean Elections Commission had asked Hobbs to say by Friday whether she will participate in a gubernatorial debate with Republican nominee Kari Lake.

The Hobbs campaign released a response Friday afternoon that said the commission hadn’t yet agreed to make enough changes to the debate format.

“Over the last few weeks, we have worked with Clean Elections to find a format that would lead to a robust discussion of the most pressing issues facing Arizonans,” Nicole DeMont, Hobbs’ campaign manager, said in a letter to the commission.

“Unfortunately, the only modification to the original proposal that Clean Elections offered was loosely-enforced time limits. But Clean Elections did note that they ‘remain ready to consider any additional requests your campaign wants to offer that further formalize the structure.'”

Hobbs, Arizona’s secretary of state, has been reluctant to commit after the Republican candidates constantly talked over each other and the moderator during the commission’s primary debate, leading Lake to say, “I feel like I’m on an SNL skit here.”

Video highlights of the GOP debate went viral and were the target of ridicule.

“As a candidate and as governor, Sec. Hobbs will never participate in something that will make Arizona the butt of late-night TV jokes and national ridicule. She has too much respect for the people of Arizona,” DeMont wrote.

Hobbs said she’d be interested if the event didn’t use a typical debate structure.

She proposed having each candidate interviewed separately for 30 minutes by local PBS host Ted Simons, who could ask whatever he wanted. Each candidate would also get one minute for opening and closing remarks under her proposal.

During the primary race, Hobbs chose not to debate against Marco Lopez. But she was the heavy favorite against Lopez and handily defeated him.

Polls are showing that Lake is a more formidable opponent.

Lake has said she’d debate Hobbs at any time and place, even offering to let her Democratic opponent write the questions.

Simons is scheduled to moderate the senator and governor debates. He was the moderator for June’s off-the-rails GOP gubernatorial debate.

Kelly accepted his debate invitation on Friday morning and will go head-to-head with Republican nominee Blake Masters on Oct. 6.

The gubernatorial debate is on the calendar for Oct. 12, the day early voting in the general election starts.

KTAR News 92.3 FM plans to air both events, which start at 6 p.m.

The Citizens Clean Elections Commission is sponsoring debates in all contested statewide and legislative races before the Nov. 8 election. The events are televised by Arizona PBS, livestreamed and archived for rewatching.

Lake and Hobbs will share a stage next week, but not at the same time, during a town hall event hosted by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Phoenix.

Each candidate is scheduled to get about 20 minutes of one-on-one time with a moderator during the event Wednesday at the Republic National Distributing Company of Arizona.

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Sen. Mark Kelly agrees to debate; fellow Democrat Katie Hobbs seeks new format