Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs withdraws Health Services director nominee

Feb 14, 2023, 3:07 PM | Updated: 3:46 pm
Dr. Theresa Cullen answers questions during an Arizona Senate hearing on Feb. 9, 2023. (Arizona Leg...
Dr. Theresa Cullen answers questions during an Arizona Senate hearing on Feb. 9, 2023. (Arizona Legislature Screenshot)
(Arizona Legislature Screenshot)

PHOENIX — Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs withdrew her nominee for Department of Health Services director Tuesday after a new Senate committee gave Dr. Theresa Cullen a thumbs down last week.

The Democratic governor said Cullen chose “not to proceed” in the wake of Thursday’s contentious Senate Committee on Director Nominations hearing.

Republicans on the panel took aim at Cullen over her handling of the COVID-19 pandemic as director of the Pima County Health Department and came away unimpressed with her answers.

“When I asked Dr. Cullen if she believed the benefits of her decisions outweighed the consequences, she would not give us a direct answer,” Director Nominations Chairman Jake Hoffman said in a press release Tuesday. “Lives and livelihoods were lost under her leadership.”

Hobbs, meanwhile, criticized Republicans for how they treated Cullen.

“The way some Republicans on the state Senate’s Committee on Director Nominations was nothing short of harassment, and those who participated in it should be ashamed of their behavior – we all should,” Hobbs said in a press release.

Senate President Warren Petersen formed the committee earlier this month and appointed Hoffman as chairman.

The panel is charged with vetting nominees and making recommendations to the full Senate. It can’t officially end a nomination, but its decision signals which way the Republican-controlled full Senate is likely to vote.

The vote against Cullen was 3-2, along party lines. However, the committee voted in favor of recommending Hobbs’ Economic Security nominee, Angela Rodgers.

“We now hope that the governor takes a more pragmatic approach to this process and appoints individuals in the mainstream, without a political agenda, and who are ready to answer questions from the public,” Petersen said in a press release after Hobbs withdrew Cullen’s name.

Cullen issued a statement saying she was “honored to be considered” and will continue her Pima County job.

“While the state job hasn’t worked out, I love being Pima County’s public health director and there remains a lot of work to do making Pima County one of the healthiest counties in the country,” she said.

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Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs withdraws Health Services director nominee