Kelly and Hobbs face different prospects in crucial races in Arizona

PHOENIX (AP) — A year ago, Arizona Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs was all over the cable news, building a national profile as a democracy advocate and raising money for his campaign for governor.

Democratic senator. Mark Kellynewly elected to complete the last term of the late John McCain and a candidate for re-election, appeared to be among the most vulnerable members of the Senate.

Fortune appears to have tipped for the two Democrats as the midterm campaign enters the home stretch in a fast-growing diverse state that is increasingly central to how the Democratic Party sees its future. Kelly maintains a strong position in the polls and fundraising while Hobbs is in a more difficult situation.

The dynamic reflects how campaigns have sometimes pursued different strategies and faced different types of rivals. Lake Kari, Hobbs’ opponent as the Republican gubernatorial candidate, has won a large following as a savvy ally of former President Donald Trump. Blake Masters, Kelly’s rival in the Senate race, has struggled to gain the same kind of traction.

“People love shiny things, and Kari Lake is that shiny thing that shows off,” said Bridget Bellavigna, a Democrat who took inspiration from Trump’s election to get involved in local politics. She introduces herself as a constable in the suburbs of Phoenix.

A Fox News poll released Thursday found Kelly leading Republican Blake Masters 46% to 40% while the gubernatorial race was roughly tied. The survey of 1,008 Arizona voters was conducted Sept. 22-26. The margin of error was 3 percentage points.

Hobbs and Kelly work largely independently of each other and have not campaigned together. Both describe their Republican opponents as extremists, but otherwise take different approaches to their public personas.

Kelly, a former Navy pilot and astronaut, flies over the state in a rented four-seater plane, courting media attention along the way.

Hobbs, by contrast, had a sparse presence on the campaign trail until the Democratic primary in August and much of the period since. She has focused her attention on rural areas away from voter-rich areas of Phoenix and Tucson, where Democrats need to increase turnout if they are to be competitive here.

She’s been more visible in the past two weeks, though she prefers choreographed events in which she largely sticks to a script and limits her interactions with reporters.

In a brief interaction after an event last month, Hobbs said she doesn’t shy away from tough questions.

“I do what my team asks me to do,” she said. “I’m not trying to dodge anything.”

Hobbs plays “preventive defense,” a cautious football strategy that concedes short wins to the opponent in an effort to run out of time, said Wes Gullett, a Republican consultant and former adviser to McCain.

Gullett added her name to a public list of Republicans supporting Democrat Adrian Fontes for secretary of state, but he refused to do the same for Hobbs, although he said he would rather she beat Lake.

“What I want to see from Katie Hobbs is a more aggressive candidate,” Gullett said. “Talking about issues that matter to him, talking about what’s important.”

Late last month, Hobbs jumped at the chance to refine his message when a Tucson judge ruled that prosecutors can apply a near total ban on abortion that was first enacted during the civil war. She pledged to use all the power of the governor’s office to protect women’s rightsalthough she acknowledged that she could do little without the cooperation of the legislature, which is likely to be controlled at least in part by Republicans opposed to abortion.

Hobbs announced over the weekend that she had raised $1.2 million in the week following the abortion ruling, a major fundraising boost, although she has yet to have to file campaign financial statements that would confirm the numbers.

Hobbs is a former social worker who worked with homeless people and later was a lobbyist for a shelter for victims of domestic violence. She was elected to the Legislature in 2010, running on a slate with current U.S. Senator Kyrsten Sinema to represent the same Phoenix Central District, Hobbs in the House and Sinema in the Senate.

“Ultimately, we are confident that sanity will prevail over chaos and Sec. Hobbs will be elected in November,” Hobbs campaign manager Nicole DeMont said in a statement to The Associated Press. .

The gubernatorial race is closer than the Senate race because Hobbs faces a tougher game, said Democratic consultant and former Arizona lawmaker Chad Campbell. Lake is a stronger candidate than Masters, he said.

“Kari Lake is a better version of Trump,” Campbell said. “She’s a more polite and beautiful version of Donald Trump.”

It also helps Kelly that Senate races bring in far more money than gubernatorial campaigns, allowing Kelly and his Democratic allies to relentlessly attack Masters, who is struggling to keep up financially. The Senate race also has a libertarian candidate who could attract votes from right-wing voters.

Independent voters make up one-third of the electorate in Arizona and hold the keys to statewide victories. They have split their tickets often, electing Sinema to the Senate and Republican Doug Ducey for governor in 2018. Two years later, they propelled Kelly to a 2.4 percentage point victory while the Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden took a victory by 0.3 points, the closest margin of any state he won. Republicans ran the table on the remainder of the ballot.

Hobbs became the undisputed Democratic favorite last year when she forcefully defended the 2020 election as Trump supporters oversaw a discredited recount of ballots in Maricopa County on behalf of Senate Republicans. State.

But she struggled to translate her defense of democracy into a firm position of strength. His own missteps didn’t help.

Late last year, a jury sided for the second time with a former black legislative aide, Talonya Adams, who said she was dismissed for discriminatory reasons in 2015, when Hobbs was the top Democrat in the Senate. Hobbs testified that she made the group decision with two others to fire Adams.

Hobbs initially defended the decision and deflected blame, accusing Republicans of underpaying Adams. After a firestorm from Democrats who felt she despised workplace discrimination against people of color, Hobbs apologized to Adams and said his initial response “did not measure up to genuine responsibility”.

Two-thirds of the Hobbs campaign staff quit this summer, telling the Arizona Agenda newsletter that the atmosphere was emotionally abusive.

More recently, she’s faced a flurry of criticism, even from allies, and weeks of negative headlines for his decision not to debate Lake.

“It’s bad for her not to,” said Linda Martini, a Democrat volunteer from Phoenix who tried to share her opinion with Hobbs at a recent campaign event but was rebuffed by the candidate. who walked away. “Plus, she could destroy her opponents. There is no doubt about it. And people want to see it on TV.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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