Debate commission rejects Katie Hobbs’ format proposal, lets negotiations continue

Sep 8, 2022, 3:06 PM

Arizona Democratic candidate for governor Katie Hobbs, left, and Republican opponent Kari Lake. (AP...

Arizona Democratic candidate for governor Katie Hobbs, left, and Republican opponent Kari Lake. (AP File Photos)

(AP File Photos)

PHOENIX – The debate over Arizona’s gubernatorial debate continues.

During a livestreamed special meeting Thursday, the Citizens Clean Elections Commission (CCEC) voted to reject Democrat Katie Hobbs’ proposal for a town hall but gave Hobbs and Republican nominee Kari Lake seven more days to agree upon a debate format.

Last week, Hobbs turned down the CCEC’s debate invitation, countering with a format where local PBS host Ted Simons would interview each candidate separately for 30 minutes. Each candidate would also get one minute for opening and closing remarks during event, which is scheduled Oct. 12.

Lake had already agreed to go head-to-head with Hobbs, with Simons as the moderator, under the traditional televised debate format the CCEC has used for years, but she said she wouldn’t participate under the format Hobbs proposed.

“Every other candidate and every other position and every other office is coming around and they’re going to do the debate except for Hobbs,” Lake told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Mike Broomhead Show on Thursday morning, before the CECC meeting.

“That’s a red flag. Why won’t she debate?”

The CCEC said that if only one side agrees to participate, that candidate would be interviewed for 30 minutes in place of the debate.

In turning down the invitation, Hobbs, Arizona’s secretary of state, cited June’s off-the-rails Republicans primary debate. The four GOP candidates constantly talked over each other and the moderator, 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,” Nicole DeMont, Hobbs’ campaign manager, said in a letter to the commission on Friday.

In addition to extending the deadline, the CCEC adopted a motion to prevent the participants from shouting and causing interruptions during the debate.

On Wednesday night, Hobbs and Lake appeared on the same stage, but not at the same time, during the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s gubernatorial candidate forum in Phoenix.

That event featured a format similar to Hobbs’ rejected proposal for the CCEC debate.

Lake and Hobbs are confirmed to appear at the same event at least once more before the Nov. 8 general election.

Lake and Hobbs are also booked to speak during an hourlong Oct. 3 town hall at the Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix as part of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce national convention.

Unlike Wednesday’s forum, the October event will be broadcast, although details about how it will air have not been released.

The CCEC sponsors debates for all contested statewide and legislative races as part of its voter education responsibilities. The nonpartisan board was created as part of the Clean Elections Act passed by voters in 1998.

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Debate commission rejects Katie Hobbs’ format proposal, lets negotiations continue