Arizona Lege Cancels Secretary Of State For Failing To Love Big Lie
Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, has been among the lone voices of reason standing up to the state Senate's fake "audit" of the 2020 vote in Maricopa County. Since Hobbs refuses to play along with the craziness, Republicans in the state legislature took action yesterday to strip Hobbs of her ability to defend the election results in court. The state House and Senate Appropriations committees voted to transfer Hobbs's power to file or defend election-related lawsuits to the office of state Attorney General Mark Brnovich. Brnovich has happily signed on to the groundless lie that the 2020 election was tainted by massive fraud, although nobody's been able to actually provide any evidence of it.
The measure prohibiting Hobbs from doing her job was added to a budget bill that the full legislature will have to vote on; with Republican majorities in both houses, that seems likely. According to Arizona Republic political columnist Elvia Diaz, Gov. Doug Ducey (R) "has supported [the bill] in principle with some legislative Republicans," although Diaz doesn't specify whether Ducey's support came before or after yesterday's measure gutting Hobbs's office.
Just how sleazy is this move? It barely even pretends to be anything other than a Republican power grab, since the removal of the secretary of state's powers expires on Jan. 2, 2023, at the end of Hobbs's current term. Hobbs is eligible to run for a second term, but is widely expected to run for governor next year, and if a Republican wins as secretary of state, we're sure the lege would want the new person to be free to take any action necessary to overturn a possible win by Hobbs.
Republicans are upset with Hobbs not only because she has taken a number of outrageously controversial stances, like saying the election was free and fair or that Joe Biden is the actual president, but also because she hired an outside attorney to help her office contest Brnovich's arguments in a recent challenge to Arizona's law against "ballot harvesting," which made it a crime for anyone but a family member or caregiver to take another person's filled-out absentee ballot to the polls. As the Arizona Daily Star explains,
Brnovich sought review by the U.S. Supreme Court after a federal appellate court voided the law. But Hobbs urged the justices, who are still considering the matter, to uphold that ruling and void the statute.
There's more than a little bad blood between Hobbs and Brnovich; Hobbs said in a statement yesterday that she filed an ethics complaint last October with the state Bar against Brnovich, alleging that the AG "frequently sought to substitute his judgment for my own and allowed his political preferences to interfere with this obligation to represent me as a client, in my pursuit of the best interests of Arizona voters." She's also filed ethics complaints against a bunch of staffers in the AG's office.
In fact, state Sen. Vince Leach (R) said that Hobbs was the one playing politics, and that's why she had to be stopped, dontcha know. Leach told the Daily Star, "I don't know what's more political than the secretary of state submitting charges against almost the entire upper echelon of the attorney general." Another Republican, state Sen. David Livingston, chimed in with, "She's the one who's acting politically," so obviously the move to strip Hobbs of power until she's out of office can't be anything personal, you see.
In addition to transferring election litigation to Brnovich's office, the budget amendment also removes the Secretary of State's authority over the Capitol Museum, which presents historical displays in part of Arizona's old Capitol building. That too appears to be motivated by revenge, after Hobbs flew a gay pride flag from a Capitol balcony in 2019, which mightily offended Republican House and Senate leaders. Yes, really. But don't worry, Republicans say that's merely needed to "ensure that better use can be made of the building by lawmakers."
That has to be it. When Republican legislators in Michigan, Wisconsin, and North Carolina did all they could to limit the power of newly elected Democratic governors, they routinely explained it was for very high-minded reasons, to maintain a clear separation of powers or to bring balance to the Force. That's surely all that the Arizona Rs are interested in as well.
But for some reason — probably pure partisan spite — Democratic members of the lege weren't convinced by the insistence that this is merely about efficiency and good government. Rep. Randy Friese, noting the fake recount, asked, "Are we anticipating some lawsuits?" He called the budget measure "troubling and disturbing," particularly since it's all due to reset once Hobbs leaves office. It's sad, really. The state Senate just wants to make a serious effort to determine whether Joe Biden's win in Maricopa County was the result of a plot to import thousands of fake bamboo-paper ballots from southeast Asia, or some other definitely real cheating that's somehow gone undetected, and here's this Democratic state representative spinning out arcane conspiracy theories that Republicans are trying to seize power. What a paranoid!
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