Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs, sec. of state Adrian Fontes, attorney general Kris Mayes and others take office

It happened during a private ceremony at the state Capitol.
Published: Jan. 2, 2023 at 12:44 AM MST|Updated: Jan. 2, 2023 at 6:11 PM MST
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PHOENIX (AP/3TV/CBS 5) — Katie Hobbs, Adrian Fontes, Kris Mayes, and selected other Arizona elected officially took office early Monday. Hobbs became Arizona’s 24th governor and the first Democrat to hold the office since 2009.

Power was transferred in a private ceremony at the state Capitol as Hobbs formally takes over from Republican Doug Ducey. A public inauguration for Hobbs and others taking statewide offices is scheduled for Thursday. Hobbs is the outgoing secretary of state and was previously a state legislator who rose to be the top Democrat in the Senate. As governor, she’ll have to work with a House and Senate narrowly controlled by Republicans. The new Legislature convenes for the first time next week.

Hobbs assumes control of a state with a strong economy and a solid financial position, with a large budget surplus forecast for the next fiscal year. Hobbs is already getting to work launching a 100 days initiative. She signed her first executive order on non-discrimination in the workplace on Monday afternoon. It reinforces federal and state laws for equal employment opportunities.

Hobbs serves as Arizona’s fifth female governor and first Democrat in nearly fifteen years. “I think what generally though what you are going to start to see right off the bat, is a real difference in tone,” said Karl Gentles, Democratic Political Strategist at The Gentles Agency.

Gentles says there will be one huge indicator of Hobbs’ priorities. “I think the first big indicator of the philosophical change is going to be in the budget that’s presented at the end of the first week. That’s where you’re going to see the Hobbs administration’s priorities start to take shape,” he explained.

Besides allocating funding, Gentles says there are two key issues he thinks Hobbs will likely tackle right off the bat. The first is abortion. “Repealing the 1864 abortion ban. And so she’s made it very clear that she’s going to organize or plan a special session to address that issue,” said Gentles.

Hobbs says she also plans to tackle issues at the border. “When you think about the border, which is a big issue on the democrat side and the republican side, the difference is in approach. Gov. Ducey put up the containers as one of his last acts before leaving office. Gov. Hobbs is coming in, and as we speak, those containers are going to start coming down,” said Gentles.

While Hobbs’ win is monumental, Gentles says, her battle is just beginning. “We’ve got a divided government, and so that means that she is going to have to find a way to work with the opposition to get her agenda through. And the opposition is going to have to work with the Hobbs administration to get what they want,” he said.

But there are headwinds on the horizon. Phoenix has some of the nation’s highest inflation levels, and housing costs have soared as rapid population growth has outpaced home construction, belying the state’s reputation for affordability. And the water supply is constrained by drought.

Hobbs narrowly defeated Republican Kari Lake, a former television anchor who was backed by former President Donald Trump. She excited conservatives with her staunch backing of Trump, including his lies about the 2020 election, and her strong criticism of mask mandates and business closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But she struggled to connect with Arizona’s general electorate, which has repeatedly eschewed Republicans closely aligned with Trump going back to the 2018 midterms.

The last Democratic governor was Janet Napolitano, who resigned in January 2009 to be U.S. Homeland Security secretary under President Barack Obama. She was replaced by Republican Gov. Jan Brewer.

Shortly after the ceremony took place, Hobbs released a statement:

Ducey also left a handwritten letter for Hobbs, congratulating her on the new position. “Welcome to the Governor’s office and once again, congratulations! If you are reading this note you are soon to be sworn in. I want you to know I wish you only the best. Every day as governor is an adventure. It is the greatest job in politics as an immense responsibility. I know you will serve the people of Arizona well. You and your family will be in our family prayers and if I can ever be helpful I’m only a phone call away,” the letter read.

The Arizona Constitution says state officers take their position on the first Monday in January. While Hobbs took office on schedule, the public ceremony was delayed because Monday is the observed New Year holiday. The official inauguration ceremony at the capitol will be on Thursday morning and Arizona’s Family will carry that ceremony live.

Also formally taking office Monday are Democrats Adrian Fontes as secretary of state and Kris Mayes as attorney general, both of whom defeated Trump-backed Republicans who refused to concede and unsuccessfully challenged their losses in court. Mayes’s 280-vote victory was among the closest statewide races in Arizona history.

Kimberly Yee was sworn in for her second term as state treasurer, and Tom Horne as superintendent of public instruction, a role he filled for two terms beginning in 2003. Yee and Horne are both Republicans.

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