Candidate for Arizona Governor Kari Lake Takes Campaign on Road After Opponent’s Refusal to Debate

TUCSON, Ariz.—Democratic candidate for Arizona governor Katie Hobbs has refused to debate her Republican opponent Kari Lake ahead of the Nov. 8 mid-term election, with her campaign telling local media she won’t argue with a “conspiracy theorist.”

Instead, Hobbs, Arizona’s secretary of state, requested a “town hall-style” format where each candidate would sit for a 30-minute interview in a controlled setting.

“Secretary Hobbs remains willing and eager to participate in a town hall style event, such as the forum she participated in [September] in which Arizonans were able to hear directly from Sec[retary] Hobbs about her in-depth policy plans and how she would approach governing this state,” wrote Nicole DeMont, Hobbs’ campaign manager, in a letter to the Citizens Clean Elections Commission in Phoenix.

The commission sponsors public debates each election cycle so Arizona voters can better gauge the candidates running for office.

Arizona Democratic candidate for governor Katie Hobbs speaks to the media before dropping off her primary election ballot in Scottsdale, Ariz., on July 21, 2022. (Ross Franklin/AP Photo)

“Unfortunately, debating a conspiracy theorist like Kari Lake—whose entire campaign platform is to cause enormous chaos and make Arizona the subject of national ridicule—would only lead to constant interruptions, pointless distractions, and childish name-calling,” DeMont said in the letter.

“We must respectfully decline the invitation.”

Lake called Hobbs’ refusal to debate her one-on-one a political act of “cowardice” on social media.

Either way, it appears the voters will never get the chance to hear these two ideologically opposed gubernatorial candidates debate in a public forum, pitting their ideas—and political agendas—against one another.

Debates Are ‘Critical’

The political debate is perhaps as old as politics itself. It’s an opportunity for the voters to gauge the candidates’ image, honesty, and substance.

It’s considered democracy.

“Debates are a critical tool for voters to learn directly from the candidates about where they stand on the issues,” said Clean Elections voter education director Gina Roberts.

“Voters are often inundated with messaging from different sources during the election season, and debates offer voters a direct line of communication with the candidates.”

Roberts told The Epoch Times that Clean Elections has a successful history of providing voters with access to statewide and legislative candidate debates, “along with an opportunity to submit their questions for the candidates.”

“Most recently, a poll commissioned by Clean Elections identified debates as a primary source of election information for general election voters,” Roberts added.

Clean Elections rejected Hobbs’ request for a town hall-style format. What seems to have evolved in this debate-free environment are two separate campaign strategies for reaching out to Arizona’s committed and undecided voters.

Trump-endorsed candidate Lake recently went on the road with a series of live “Ask Me Anything” events, where voters can ask her any question about the campaign’s issues.

“It’s all politics right now, and politics matter. This is just a job interview, and you guys are the hiring managers. I’m applying for a job interview, and we’re taking the job interview on the road since my opponent is hiding in her basement,” Lake said at a packed “Ask Me Anything” session at Whiskey Roads Restaurant in Tucson on Oct. 2.

“Somebody ran into her in a Starbucks, and they asked her a question, ‘Why don’t you do an interview and debate Kari Lake?’ She said I’m not answering anything. Here we are, answering everything.”

Lake is unapologetically pro-life and opposes progressive education that includes transgenderism and Critical Race Theory. She supports the Second Amendment, border security, school choice, and election integrity with the campaign slogan, “Don’t California Our Arizona.”

Hobbs is a former Arizona state senator, and a social worker whose politics are decidedly progressive. She was elected Arizona’s secretary of state in 2018, presiding over Arizona’s controversial 2020 presidential election which turned up numerous ballot discrepancies resulting in a Republican state-Senate sponsored election audit in 2021.

Hobbs has vowed on her website that on “day one” as governor, she would repeal Arizona’s 1901 law banning abortion and replace it with one that is “in line with the beliefs of the vast majority of Arizonans.”

She supports making state government more “inclusive” by hiring and promoting more people of color, creating the position of chief equity officer and civil rights policy adviser, and addressing state payroll inequities.

Polls Show Tight Race

Hobbs appears to have adopted a more low-key strategy rather than meet Lake head-on in a public debate. In early August, she met with constituents during a meeting with labor union leaders.

“Good coffee. Bagels. Getting to sit down and speak with Arizona’s union leaders about real challenges we’re facing,” Hobbs said in a post on Twitter on Aug. 9.

“Couldn’t think of a better way to start my morning than at the ADP Labor Breakfast.”

The latest polls show Lake and Hobbs nearly deadlocked, with Lake, a former Fox10 news anchor, leading Hobbs 46 percent to 45 percent among voters.

Both candidates are also running close in fund-raising: Hobbs has garnered $5 million compared to Lake at just under $4 million.

The winner in the general election will succeed Arizona’s two-term Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, who cannot seek re-election due to the state’s term limits.

Neither Lake nor Hobbs responded to a request for comment through their respective campaigns.

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Allan Stein is an Epoch Times reporter who covers the state of Arizona.

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