Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs didn’t step down this week. So what happened?

Sep 29, 2023, 7:00 PM

Arizona’s governor was out of the state for a day this week, prompting false claims that she’d abruptly resigned or vanished entirely.

Here are the facts:

CLAIM: Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs has suddenly resigned, leaving the state’s treasurer in charge.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The Democrat, who has been the target of misinformation since taking office this year, was out of state for meetings in Washington for a day, so the state treasurer briefly served as acting governor. Arizona’s constitution calls for the next highest ranking elected official physically in the state to assume the role in the governor’s absence. Hobbs returned to Arizona on Thursday and resumed her duties, including attending an event with President Joe Biden.

THE FACTS: Hobbs’ brief trip on Wednesday was wildly misrepresented on social media and conservative news sites.

Critics and news headlines claimed her absence was “mysterious” or “unexplained,” suggesting the governor disappeared without notice, leaving another state official suddenly running the show.

“She has now stepped down as Arizona governor, and it’s raising questions,” claimed one Facebook user in a widely shared video posted on Thursday.

“BREAKING: Katie Hobbs has resigned from her role as the Governor of Arizona,” read another post on Gettr Thursday.

“Republican State Treasurer Kimberly Yee is currently the Acting Governor,” wrote another user on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter on Wednesday. “The reason is unknown.”

But there’s no great mystery: Hobbs remains governor of the Grand Canyon State. She was away on business for a day, and state law requires that the next highest-ranking statewide office holder assume the role of acting governor in her absence.

Arizona’s secretary of state and state attorney general were also in D.C. for meetings this week, leaving state Treasurer Kimberly Yee as the state’s de facto executive, Hobbs’ spokesperson Christian Slater confirmed.

The usually unremarkable handover gained attention when Yee released a statement Wednesday acknowledging she’d be serving as acting governor from that evening through Thursday morning.

In a jab at the Democratic governor, the Republican said she would “refrain from” filling vacancies in state agency director jobs that the governor hasn’t filled.

Slater confirmed Friday that the governor met with U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas in D.C. on Wednesday.

Hobbs was back Thursday morning and spoke later that day at the Tempe Center for the Arts, where officials announced the construction of a library honoring the late U.S. Sen. John McCain, of Arizona.

On Friday, Hobbs headed to Flagstaff to speak with the state Board of Regents, according to Slater.

Meanwhile Secretary of State Adrian Fontes returned to Arizona on Friday after meeting with U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, of Arizona, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, and White House staff regarding the impact of the looming federal government shutdown on election operations, Paul Smith-Leonard, his spokesperson, said Friday.

State Attorney General Kris Mayes was also back in the state Friday after meeting with officials from the Drug Enforcement Agency on efforts to combat the state’s fentanyl crisis, according to spokesperson Richie Taylor.

She also spoke with U.S. Department of Agriculture officials on the proposed merger between grocery chains Albertsons and Kroger and its potential impact to local food suppliers.

Even after it was clear that the governor was back in Arizona, some social media users baselessly suggested Hobbs would have to be sworn back into office before resuming her duties.

“No,” Slater responded, “there is no grain of truth to that claim.”

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Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs didn’t step down this week. So what happened?