FILE - Katie Hobbs

Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs

(The Center Square) – Katie Hobbs will be the first candidate for Arizona governor in decades to refuse an invitation to debate her opponent in a state commission-organized event. 

Hobbs, the current Democratic secretary of state, announced Sunday that she would “respectfully decline” the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission invitation to reach terms on debating her Republican opponent, former Fox 10 anchor Kari Lake. No other candidate running for office in November has declined an invitation, nor has any candidate for governor done so since the commission began holding debates in 2002.

“Secretary Hobbs remains willing and eager to participate in a town hall style event, such as the forum she participated in last week in which Arizonans were able to hear directly from Sec. Hobbs about her in-depth policy plans and how she would approach governing this state,” Hobbs’ campaign manager, Nicole DeMont, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, debating a conspiracy theorist like Kari Lake – whose entire campaign platform is to cause enormous chaos and make Arizona the subject of national ridicule – would only lead to constant interruptions, pointless distractions, and childish name-calling.”

The AZCCEC met last week to discuss Hobbs’ request for separate town hall-style Q&A sessions with the commission’s chosen moderator. They denied that request and gave staffers a week to figure out a setting where Hobbs would join Lake on stage. 

Lake’s campaign didn’t respond to a request for comment on Hobbs declining the invitation but posted several comments on Twitter.

“Arizona can't afford to elect a shrinking violet like [Hobbs] as their Governor and turn a beautiful red state into a purple mess,” Lake’s campaign tweeted Monday.

State GOP Chairwoman Kelli Ward said Monday that Hobbs’ refusal to face Lake is a statement of its own. 

“Voters should be very suspicious that Katie Hobbs, a sitting secretary of state, is unwilling to stand side by side with Kari Lake and answer questions in a head to head matchup,” she said. “What is Katie Hobbs trying to hide?”

Polls have shown the two in a close race. 

Managing Editor

Cole Lauterbach is a managing editor for The Center Square covering the western United States. For more than a decade, Cole has produced award-winning content on both radio and television.