Arizona debate commission ditches PBS, reschedules Kari Lake interview
PHOENIX – After a falling out with PBS, the state board that sponsors Arizona’s candidate debates has a new broadcast partner and new date for its gubernatorial event.
The Citizens Clean Elections Commission (CCEC) said Monday that its interview with Republican candidate Kari Lake will air at 5 p.m. Sunday on AZTV7 and be livestreamed.
It’s just the latest chapter of a saga that started more than a month ago when Democratic nominee Katie Hobbs, Arizona’s current secretary of state, turned down CCEC’s invitation to participate in a traditional debate.
Gina Roberts, CCEC voter education director, told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Tuesday morning the invitation for Hobbs to debate Lake still stands.
“Based off of the information we have received thus far that Katie Hobbs likely will not debate, then the format will be a 30-minute Q&A session with Kari Lake,” Roberts said.
Roberts said CCEC is still working to select a moderator to conduct the interview.
CCEC sponsors debates for all of Arizona’s 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.
The commission’s policy has been that when only one candidate in a race agrees to participate, that person gets a one-on-one interview in place of a debate.
Lake’s interview was originally scheduled for last Wednesday on Arizona PBS, but CCEC postponed it that day after the learning of the station’s plan to conduct and air an interview with Hobbs independently of its partnership with CCEC.
Roberts said Arizona PBS didn’t tell CCEC about the Hobbs interview plan before it became public.
“It was the lack of communication, the timing of it and the fact that they broke protocol into how we previously conducted our events together, that was really what the commission took issue with,” Roberts said. “It’s not the fact that Arizona PBS as a journalistic entity is speaking with candidates, as they are … welcome to do that. We have no concern with that.”
The Hobbs interview is set to first air at 5 p.m. Tuesday on PBS’ nightly “Horizon” news program.
CCEC previously rejected Hobbs’ request to change the gubernatorial debate to a town hall format where each candidate is interviewed separately.
“We are in the business of hosting debates,” Roberts said. “Our statute mandates that we offer a debate.”
Hobbs told KTAR News last week that the PBS interview is “the chance to make my case directly to the voters of Arizona, which is what I’ve continued to do throughout this campaign.
“Being a part of a Kari Lake spectacle is not going to do that, and I’m not interested in embarrassing the state again, like what happened with the GOP primary debate.”
Lake and the other candidates constantly talked over each other and the moderator during the primary debate in June. Video highlights went viral and were the target of national ridicule.
Hobbs also passed on debating against primary opponent Marco Lopez, but she was heavily favored in that race and easily won the nomination. Polls are showing the general election as a toss-up.
Lake has been pushing Hobbs to debate and bashing her for avoiding it.
“I hope you find the courage to join me,” Lake tweeted after CCEC rescheduled the event.
Thank you to @AZCEC for rescheduling the gubernatorial debate with a new broadcast partner.
— Kari Lake (@KariLake) October 18, 2022
The original gubernatorial event date was the same day early voting started in Arizona for the Nov. 8 general election. Lake’s CCEC interview will now come nearly halfway through the early-voting period.
KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Taylor Kinnerup contributed to this report.