ARIZONA NEWS

With Democrat Katie Hobbs’ inauguration, Arizona enters era of divided government

Jan 5, 2023, 7:53 AM
Democratic Arizona Governor-elect Katie Hobbs speaks at a victory rally, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022, in...

Democratic Arizona Governor-elect Katie Hobbs speaks at a victory rally, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

(AP Photo/Matt York)

PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs will outline her vision for the next four years during her inaugural address Thursday, ushering in an era of divided government and Democratic ascendance in a state long dominated by Republicans.

Hobbs has been governor since Monday, when power transferred under the state constitution. She’ll repeat the oath of office in public Thursday at the traditional every-four-years inaugural at the state Capitol.

Hobbs rose to prominence as the secretary of state, staunchly defending the integrity of the 2020 election as former President Donald Trump and his allies tried to overturn the results or falsely claim there was rampant fraud.

She narrowly won office in November after pitching “sanity over chaos,” contrasting herself favorably against Republican Kari Lake, a former television anchor who backed Trump’s election lies and drew global media attention.

Hobbs assumes control of a state with a strong economy and a solid financial position, with a large budget surplus forecast for the next fiscal year.

But headwinds are on the horizon. Phoenix has some of the nation’s highest inflation levels and housing costs have soared as rapid population growth has outpaced home construction, belying the state’s reputation for affordability. Furthermore, the water supply is constrained by drought.

Hobbs was previously a state legislator who rose through the ranks to become the top Democrat in the Senate. As governor, she’ll have to work with a House and Senate narrowly controlled by Republicans. The GOP caucuses will move to the right after several moderate Republicans in both the House and Senate were defeated in primaries or chose not to run for re-election, getting replaced by a new generation of lawmakers spoiling for a fight not just with Democrats but more moderate members of the GOP.

The new Legislature convenes for the first time next Monday.

Outgoing Republican Gov. Doug Ducey left a letter for Hobbs saying governor “is the greatest job in politics and an immense responsibility. I know you will serve the people of Arizona well.”

Hobbs’s election is the latest victory for Democrats who steadily expanded their influence in Arizona since 2018, when Kyrsten Sinema was elected to the U.S. Senate. Sinema was then a Democrat but has since become independent after infuriating much of her party’s base.

Democrats now control the top three state offices — governor, secretary of state and attorney general — for the first time in decades, along with both U.S. Senate seats.

Lake has refused to concede and is continuing her legal fight challenging the election results and claiming on social media that elections are rigged. A Maricopa County judge rejected Lake’s claim that the election results were marred by intentional misconduct by election officials in the state’s most populous county.

The first two weeks in office are frenetic for a new governor just learning the job. Hobbs will give a second major speech just days after her inaugural address when she delivers the state of the state address on Monday, followed by her first budget proposal next Friday. Meanwhile, she has focused on staffing up her government, appointing several new state agency chiefs in recent weeks and announcing she will retain several officials originally hired by Ducey.

Hobbs signed her first executive order hours after taking office aiming to eliminate discrimination for state employees and contractors. She has outlined priorities that include water, border security, health care access, affordability, workforce development and education.

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With Democrat Katie Hobbs’ inauguration, Arizona enters era of divided government