Sep 8, 2022 - Politics

Commission rejects Hobbs' request to replace debate with "town hall"

Katie Hobbs gestures with her hands while speaking to reporters
Katie Hobbs speaks in August. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

The Citizens Clean Elections Commission rejected Democratic gubernatorial candidate Katie Hobbs' request to turn her proposed debate with Republican Kari Lake into separate 30-minute "town hall-style" interviews with each candidate.

  • Every election year, the commission hosts televised debates for statewide offices moderated by Ted Simons, who hosts PBS' "Arizona Horizon."

Driving the news: The commission voted on Thursday to give Hobbs and Lake one week to hash out the details and rules of a debate that's scheduled for Oct. 12.

Yes, but: If Hobbs won't agree to a traditional debate, Lake will get the stage to herself.

Catch up fast: Hobbs refused to participate in a traditional debate with Lake because of what campaign manager Nicole DeMont said were Lake's "constant interruptions, pointless distractions, childish name-calling, tired conspiracy theories and demonstrably false accusations" during the Republican primary debate.

  • DeMont told the commission during Thursday's meeting that Lake "only wants to create another spectacle," pointing specifically to Lake's repeated promotion of the false claims that the 2020 election was rigged.

What they're saying: "You can't debate a conspiracy theorist. When she decides to come back to reality and accept the results of our free and fair elections, then we can start to have a real policy debate," DeMont said.

Of note: Hobbs also refused to debate opponent Marco Lopez during the Democratic primary.

  • Her campaign said that "as the only candidate with a clear path through the primary" Hobbs would remain focused on winning in November.

The other side: Lake's campaign attorney, Timothy La Sota, called Hobbs' request unprecedented and said the commission shouldn't "capitulate" to her request just because she's "afraid to debate."

  • "This is not only an insult to the voters of Arizona that they can't look at these candidates and make a judgment for themselves. It's an insult to this commission and it's an insult to Mr. Simons. And it's a cop-out," La Sota said.

Three of the four commissioners voted to reject Hobbs' request, with chair Damien Meyer saying, "Voter education is at the top of the list of what we do" and that it's in the best interests of Arizona voters for the two candidates to debate.

What's next: DeMont tells Axios that Hobbs "remains committed to finding a format that would lead to a robust policy discussion of the most pressing issues facing Arizonans" and that the campaign looks forward to hearing from the commission about the next steps, but the campaign wouldn't say whether Hobbs is open to debating Lake.

  • When Meyer asked DeMont if there are any circumstances in which Hobbs would agree to a traditional debate, she said she didn't want to get into hypotheticals.
  • "I don't think it is a hypothetical situation," Meyer responded, prompting DeMont to say she'd need to say the details of any proposal first.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to include comment from Nicole DeMont.

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