Editor’s Note: Our coverage of Katie Hobbs is part of Running Women, a project following 15 compelling women candidates for U.S. political offices in 2018. Read the latest on her campaign below.
State Sen. Katie Hobbs has her sights set on becoming Arizona’s next secretary of state. Should the State Senate Democratic leader win, she would be the second Democratic woman in state history to ever hold that position.
In the Grand Canyon state, it’s an especially important position — there is no lieutenant governor, so the secretary of state is second in command behind the governor, and the first in line to assume the seat, if the governor can no longer serve. The secretary of state also is also Arizona’s chief election officer.
That role in elections has become a weak point for Republican incumbent Michele Reagan, who made headlines last year when a new online signature-collection service for candidates she launched had problems early on.
Then again, Hobbs may not face Reagan on Election Day. Should Hobbs prevail in this August’s Democratic primary against voting rights attorney Mark Gordon, her general election opponent could be fellow state Senator Steve Montenegro — and based on preliminary polls, his chances of winning the Republican primary are real.
Regardless of who Hobbs might face, Arizona is a traditionally red state. However, President Donald Trump won the state with only 49.5 percent of the vote in 2016. Hobbs, meanwhile, has been an outspoken opponent of Trump, and of other establishment conservatives. In a statement, she asserted that the democratic process “is under attack from Republican attempts to suppress voter turnout among marginalized communities.”
While Hobbs may be facing an uphill battle, she has a lengthy resume of public service and leadership experience to run on.
Before entering politics, she earned a bachelor’s degree from Northern Arizona University in 1992, then a master’s degree from Arizona State University in 1995. While pursuing her education, she began her career as a social worker that would last more than 25 years. She married her husband, Pat, with whom she has two children, Sam and Hannah.
Related: Emerge America is Embracing a 50-State Strategy
Hobbs also began engaging civically — and bringing other women into the political fold with her. She was commissioner of the Phoenix Women’s Commission, and worked to elect social workers on behalf of the Arizona chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. Then, after graduating from Emerge Arizona‘s candidate training program in 2004, she worked to recruit other women to the organization, which is a chapter of Emerge America, a national organization that prepares women to run for office. In 2013, she became Emerge Arizona’s executive director.
But it was the people she helped as a social worker that Hobbs says inspired her to run herself. She felt that her female clients, particularly women of color, were overlooked and underserved by their current representatives. Hobbs was elected to the Arizona House of Representatives in 2010, then to the state Senate in 2012. She became Senate minority leader in 2014. Arizona’s legislators are considered part-time public servants, so Hobbs served there while also working for Emerge Arizona.
Throughout her career in elected office, she has championed a number of women’s causes, including abortion rights. For example, she advocated for fetal research as a path to curing diseases and tried to pass legislative amendments that would protect the identities of doctors who perform abortions. She is also an vocal advocate of increased spending for Arizona’s public schools, which are facing a funding crisis recognized by both parties.
The Latest on the Campaign
November 20, 2018:
In Close Races for Women Democrats in Red States, Very Different Outcomes
Tight and fiercely fought races in Arizona and Georgia, both marred by voter-suppression controversies, are finally called.
Democrat Katie Hobbs won her race to become Arizona’s next secretary of state, putting her in position to fix an election system that has been beset by multiple problems and that she has also claimed was used by Republicans to suppress votes. Meanwhile, the two women on the Democratic ticket to lead the state of Georgia, governor candidate Stacey Abrams and running mate Sarah Riggs Amico, who sought the lieutenant governorship, both lost in a close and bitterly fought election marred by claims of vote rigging. Read the full story by Riva Richmond.
November 13, 2018:
Hobbs and Gaynor in a Neck-and-Neck Battle
By Jenna Miller
The lead in the race for Arizona secretary of state flipped back and forth between Katie Hobbs and Steve Gaynor over the weekend as more outstanding ballots were counted, causing some serious whiplash to anyone closely watching the race.
Hobbs took the lead from Gaynor by about 150 votes for an hour on Sunday after Maricopa county counted additional ballots. Gaynor then took the lead back by about 420 votes at 6 p.m. Sunday, when Pinal county and Yavapai county submitted bigger tallies. Maricopa county still has an estimated 162,000 uncounted ballots that could put Hobbs back in the lead again.
In another tight race, Arizonans can rest now, though. Democrat Kyrsten Sinema beat her Republican opponent, Martha McSally, and will become the state’s first woman U.S. senator. She succeeds Jeff Flake, flipping the seat to the Democrats. McSally is likely to be named to fill the late Republican Senator John McCain’s seat, giving Arizona an all-female Senate delegation.
November 9, 2018:
Hobbs’ Vote Gap With GOP Rival Narrows
The race for Arizona Secretary of State looked significantly tighter by Thursday, after an early evening vote tally update halved Republican Steve Gaynor’s lead over Democrat Katie Hobbs to just 19,763 votes.
The new tally accounted for about 130,000 previously uncounted ballots from Maricopa County as well some additional results from Pima County. The Arizona Republic estimates another 460,000 ballots remain to be counted from Tuesday’s election — more than enough to tip multiple tight contests that remain in limbo. Indeed, suspense also mounted in the U.S. Senate race between two women Thursday evening, when Democrat Kyrsten Sinema took a 9,610 vote lead over Republican Martha McSally.
I’m in this to win it and it’s still too close to call. Arizona voters deserve to know their votes are still being counted. pic.twitter.com/RbYfoyOLPz
— Katie Hobbs (@katiehobbs) November 7, 2018
November 7, 2018:
Women Running for Office in 2018 Achieve Record-Breaking Wins
A surge of women candidates this year resulted in record numbers of women securing political office. We saw it all — wins, losses and unclear outcomes — in our Running Women project. Read the full story.
In one nail biter, Katie Hobbs trails her Republican opponent, Steve Gaynor, in the race for Arizona secretary of state by about 3 points. But she has not conceded the election, saying hundreds of thousands of ballots remain to be counted.
October 10, 2018
Democratic Candidates Take to Twitter to Oppose Kavanaugh Supreme Court Appointment, Defend Accuser Blasey
Multiple candidates in our Running Women 2018 project, including Katie Hobbs, used social media to amplify the voices of women sexual assault survivors. Here’s what they said before, during and after Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court. Read the full story.
August 29, 2018:
Hobbs Gets GOP Opponent Surprise
By Riva Richmond
Katie Hobbs got a new opponent on Tuesday night in her bid to become Arizona’s next secretary of state, after a Republican primary upset eliminated the embattled incumbent, Michele Reagan.
Hobbs, the current minority leader in the state Senate, ran unopposed for the Democratic nomination to become the state’s No. 2 executive in and chief elections officer. And she has long trained her campaign fire on Reagan, a GOP establishment candidate who has been dogged by criticism from all sides for a number of missteps while carrying out elections.
As such, Hobbs will now have to recalibrate her campaign. On Tuesday, wealthy businessman and first-time candidate Steve Gaynor soundly defeated Reagan, taking nearly 70 percent of the vote. Gaynor, a “100 percent pro-Trump guy,” was little known to most Arizona voters before he entered the race in February, but he changed that with TV ads funded by $1.5 million of his own money.
The Democrat is likely to highlight Gaynor’s newcomer status — she previously called the Republican primary a choice between “incompetence or inexperience” — and to portray him as a far-right candidate who will seek to restrict the voting rights of minorities.
June 27, 2018:
Hobbs Decries Restrictive State Abortion Laws
Arizona state Sen. Katie Hobbs took aim at state legislation that allowed a Walgreens pharmacist to refuse on moral grounds to fill a prescription that would terminate a pregnancy.
“Nobody should have to shop around to different pharmacies to find someone who will serve them,” Hobbs, who is running for secretary of state, said Monday night.
Her comments were in response to the now-viral story of Peoria resident Nicole Arteaga, who was told by her doctor that she was going to have a miscarriage because her baby had stopped developing. After receiving this news, she was given two options: have a procedure or pick up a prescription. She chose the latter, only to be refused service at the pharmacy.
The pharmacist’s actions were perfectly legal, because Arizona is one of six states that allows pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions that conflict with their moral or religious beliefs. Arteaga left the confrontation empty-handed and in tears, accompanied by her 5-year-old son.
Hobbs said she empathizes with Arteaga’s plight. “I’ve been in a similar situation where I had to make a decision about terminating a pregnancy, and it is heart wrenching,” she said during a television interview with CBS 5 in Phoenix.
The state senator voted against what is known as the “right to refuse” law in 2012 and has tried repeatedly to get it repealed. Hobbs also opposed a bill that passed the state legislature this April requiring doctors to ask women why they are getting an abortion, arguing forcing women to justify their decisions is “costing Arizona taxpayer dollars just to further one particular group’s political, ideological agenda.”
March 7, 2018:
Running Women Q&A: Katie Hobbs is Itching to Fight Voter Suppression
The Arizona State Senate minority leader vows to ensure all eligible voters can vote, if she becomes secretary of state, leveling the playing field for Democrats, including the 2020 presidential candidate. Read the interview highlights.