Debate latest: Hobbs won’t participate; Kelly is in against Masters

Secretary of State Katie Hobbs said she won't debate Kari Lake on stage and instead proposed a town-hall style forum.
Published: Sep. 2, 2022 at 3:51 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — One candidate is in, while another is out for Democrats for separate debates next month. Katie Hobbs, who is running for governor, said she won’t share the stage in a debate with Republican hopeful Kari Lake. In a letter to the Citizens Clean Election Commission sent on Friday, her campaign said she won’t participate in the October debate under the current structure. The letter said she wants to make format changes that would essentially take the debate out of the debate. Hobbs wants a separate 30-minute town hall-style interview with Ted Simons of Arizona PBS and executive director of Clean Elections. Lake would get her own 30-minute interview. The segments would appear back-to-back in the same hour. The commission said it has received the letter and added the proposed changes would “significantly alter the nature of the event.” The commission also said it’s the first proposal it’s received from the Hobbs campaign and it’ll be reviewed.

It was a different decision for Sen. Mark Kelly, who confirmed on Friday he would participate in a televised debate against GOP Senate hopeful Blake Masters. Masters said he would participate for weeks, while Kelly waited until Friday, which was the final day to decide. “Senator Kelly looks forward to continuing the tradition of participating in this general election debate so that Arizonans can see this contrast firsthand, and hear about his record of working across the aisle to deliver results that lower costs, create jobs, and support hardworking Arizona families and small businesses,” a Kelly spokeswoman said.

The Hobbs campaign said they wanted to participate, but after seeing the Republican primary debate in July, they had concerns, calling it a “circus that insults and embarrasses Arizonans.” “As a candidate and as a governor, Sec. Hobbs will never participate in something that will make Arizona the butt of late-night TV jokes and national ridicule,” Friday’s letter said.

For her part, Lake’s campaign told Arizona’s Family she has no issues facing Hobbs on stage and has repeatedly said on social media she’ll debate Hobbs anytime, anywhere, even let Hobbs pick the moderator. Lake didn’t hold back on Twitter on Friday, calling Hobbs a coward. “She even had a chance to write all of the questions. But she would rather hide from the voters and let (George) Soros and other dark money groups pour millions of dollars into attack ads against me,” said Lake in a video she tweeted.

During the last two decades, the Citizens Clean Elections debate has been the one guaranteed time voters get to see their candidates for governor on the same stage in front of a statewide audience. The debate is usually on every major TV station in Arizona, along with dozens of radio stations.