Due to audio difficulties the entire video for this segment is not available. Please read the full transcript here.
Ted Simons: Last week we heard from Republican candidates running for secretary of state, a position that oversees state elections and is the first in line to replace the governor. Tonight we hear from the lone democrat running for secretary of state. She is Senate Minority Leader Katie Hobbs.
We usually would have you debating someone, but you have no one to debate. I’ll just throw some stuff at you and see how you handle it. Let’s start with why do you want this job?
Katie Hobbs: Well, it’s clear that the current occupant of the office is not up to par in handling the responsibilities of the job. She started out from day one with huge mistakes under her watch. I’m running because voters of Arizona deserve someone better than this, and I want to return competency, integrity and transparency to the office.
Simons: You mentioned that she made a lot of mistakes. During the debate she said, yes, she’s made some mistakes; but, the mistakes have been identifies and the mistakes have been corrected. Why should voters in general, when the general election rolls around, go for someone who has no election experience as opposed to someone who has been there, done that, gone through the landmines and come out.
Hobbs: First of all, I was appalled by Michele Reagan’s responses to those questions. She ran for this office saying she was prepared for it and that she was qualified. Then sat here and chopped those mistakes up to be rookie mistakes. This is our elections. This is a big deal, and we can’t – there’s no do-overs. We can’t afford these kind of mistakes. So, we need someone on the job who is going to take it seriously, who understands the magnitude and is really going to be prepared to hit the ground and not make mistakes.
I have served in the legislature for the last eight years. I was the ranking member on the elections committee for the democrats, and I have dealt with these issues from a lot of different aspects. I understand the magnitude of the job. A lot of it is administrative, and I have an administrative background working as the chief compliance officer of a large nonprofit organization. I understand how to plan ahead and be proactive so that you’re following the procedures in place and these kind of egregious mistakes don’t happen.
It’s also really clear that the other republican in the race doesn’t understand the scope of the job and isn’t really prepared and has no government experience whatsoever.
Simons: We talked about cyber security in the republican debate, and it’s a big factor here. What do you know about cyber security and how to protect voter roles?
Hobbs: What I know is that it’s a serious issue, and it should be at the forefront of the secretary of state’s agenda every single day. The current Secretary of State Michele Reagan’s initial response to the reports of cyber security attacks on our election system was that it was much to do about nothing. Voters should be extremely alarmed about that. The subsequent follow-up was not really reassuring to anyone at all either about what they were doing to protect us. I know she sat here and gave a list of some technical sounding words, but has not really been transparent about what the secretary of state’s office is doing today to make sure that this is a top priority issue, and that they are working collaboratively with all the agencies involved, the federal level down to the county reporters, to make sure our systems and our data is secure. Then Steve Gaynor also kind of did a punt on that and doesn’t seem like it’s an issue he’s very concerned about either.
Simons: You’ve said that you’re going to “fight to make every Arizonans’ voice heard.” Is every Arizonans’ voice not being heard now? What’s going on?
Hobbs: Well it’s clear from the mistakes that have happened under Michele Reagan’s watch that voters have been left out of the process. People waited in line for five or more hours to vote in the presidential preference election in March of 2016.
Simons: Was that her office’s problem?
Hobbs: Yes, absolutely it was. She approved polling place plans that were woefully inadequate and that probably a second grader could’ve said there’s not enough polling places here. So that is absolutely her mistake. People left polling places because they couldn’t vote. Independent voters were hugely disenfranchised in that election because they weren’t allowed to vote, but nobody told them that so they waited for hours to just be sent home.
Subsequently, the debacle with the voter pamphlets that affected the outcome of the election. Voters didn’t have the information the needed to cast an informed ballot in that race. These are huge problems, but I’ve also served with her on the elections committee where she pushed for policies similar to the Ohio state voter purge law that was just upheld by the Supreme Court. That disproportionately affects voters with high mobility, poor and minority communities and younger voters. That’s a problem.
Simons: Well, again, I go back to the people standing in line. Most folks thought that as a county election problem as opposed to the secretary of state. Are they wrong?
Hobbs: They are absolutely wrong. Every single person I talk to remembers that, and they lay it squarely at her feet, and it was absolutely a shared issue. Sure, the county recorders come up with the polling place plans. The buck stops at the secretary of state’s office who signs off and approves those plans.
Simons: You’ve written as well that an ineffective state government failed to provide opportunities for Arizonans to find good jobs. What does a secretary of state’s office have to do with any of that?
Hobbs: Well, the secretary of state’s office has a lot of functions that deal with business and filings in our state. I know Michele Reagan ran on a platform to make that more efficient to help businesses and create jobs. I don’t think she’s done that. I think that everyone I’ve talked to, not just around elections, but every single service that the secretary of state’s office provides is less efficient than it was when she got there. So for every business that has to file some sort of paper or filing with her office, it should be the most efficient possible in order to streamline things.
Simons: But again, do you think that would affect the ability for Arizonans to literally find good jobs? I ask this question because – and I’ve asked this question to other secretary of state candidates as well – the position is more administrative, as you’ve mentioned as well as opposed to making laws. You can’t make laws here, so how far can you go as secretary of state?
Hobbs: Well, the secretary of state certainly should use the office as a bully pulpit to advocate for the right policy. Policies that make it more convenient and easier for every eligible voter to participate in the process. Policies that reverse laws that keep people out of the process and laws that affect dark money reporting in elections which this secretary of state ran on doing and got into office and did exactly the opposite.
Simons: But she says that there’s only so much she can do regarding dark money. Yes, she said she wanted to do x, y and z, but she can’t even get to a, b and c because of laws and requirements. Again, is she wrong on that?
Hobbs: Yes, she got into office and the first thing she did was push for Senate bills 15-16 which absolutely made it much easier for these dark money organizations to operate in Arizona with as little reporting requirements as possible, and that is exactly the opposite of what she ran on. That bill is law today because her office pushed it through the legislature.
Simons: One of the candidates for secretary of state says that the lawsuit regarding Arizona’s two-track voting systems, the settlement of that lawsuit will allow illegal immigrants to vote. Would you have settled the lawsuit which says, without getting too deep in the weeds here, federal requirements are different than state requirements. Those state requirements require proof of citizenship, not so much the federal. Because not so much the federal, are we going to have people voting who shouldn’t be voting.
Hobbs: Absolutely not. So Prop 200 was passed by the voters, and it wasn’t the secretary of state’s office that settled that lawsuit. It was an agreement that involved a lot of players – the attorney general, the county attorney. The bottom line is regardless if a law is passed by the voters or is passed by the legislature, and I have been one of the staunchest advocates of voter protection of voter initiatives in the state, but state law does not supersede federal law. If there’s a conflict there, the federal law is where you have to go, and there’s a conflict there.
Here’s the thing: the kind of people Prop 200 is keeping from voting – I talked to a woman last week who is trying to help, she’s an attorney, she’s trying to help a 104-year-old woman register to vote in Arizona, and she can’t do it because she’s never had an Arizona state ID, she’s never driven in the state of Arizona. When she was born in new York, her mother spoke mostly Yiddish, and the name on her birth certificate is different than the name she uses. She can’t get the right ID to get her birth certificate so she can register to vote. That’s the kind of person Prop 200 is keeping from voting in Arizona.
Simons: Last question. Second in line to governor, the secretary of state is, second in line. Are you qualified to be governor?
Hobbs: Absolutely. I want o make it clear, first of all, that the voters of Arizona deserve somebody in the secretary of state’s office who is qualified and prepared to do that job and wants to do that job. That is the job I’m running for. But they also deserve somebody who understands that yes this is the second-in-line to the governorship that wants to do that job and is also prepared to do that job. I’ve spent the last eight years in the legislature. That is the best arena that there is to be prepared for running for governor, and I have a track record of bipartisan accomplishments starting with medicaid expansion with Governor Brewer, solving the rape kit back log in Arizona with Governor Ducey. Michele Reagan sat here and said she didn’t want the job. Steve Gaynor said he would read up on it if that happened, and that is not fair to Arizona voters at all.