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Elvia Díaz: Hobbs and Petersen need to grow up, stick to the process on director confirmations

Warren Petersen and Katie Hobbs
Gage Skidmore/CC BY 2.0
Warren Petersen and Katie Hobbs

Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs is in a tough spot after a judge ruled last week that she is in the wrong by doing an end run around her counterparts in the Senate and a state law that requires her agency heads to be confirmed by them.

The ruling came in response to a lawsuit filed by Senate President Warren Petersen (R-Gilbert), who called it “a prime example of Democrats weaponizing Arizona’s government for their own political gain and to implement their radical left agenda.”

Hobbs faced opposition from Senate Republicans in getting her nominees confirmed after leadership formed a special committee to vet them — a special committee led by Freedom Caucus member Jake Hoffman (R-Queen Creek).

So she re-designated her nominated agency heads as executive deputy directors and skipped the confirmation process essentially.

Now the judge is giving the two branches of government a chance to resolve the issue, but Elvia Díaz is skeptical that that will happen.

Díaz is editorial page editor at the Arizona Republic, and she joined The Show to talk more about it.

Full conversation

LAUREN GILGER: You have columnists calling for everyone here to basically grow up. What’s your take?

ELVIA DÍAZ: It’s interesting. That judge essentially told the same people, “Go up and resolve this issue among yourselves.” That’s why they were before the judge, because they couldn’t solve anything. And now the judge essentially is asking Gov. Hobbs and the Senate president to deal with it, which, of course, they want. So we’ll see what the next steps are.

And yes, there are different opinions here. It is clear that judge believes that Gov. Hobbs broke the law, did not follow the law by going around the process. But let’s keep in mind that forever and ever since the beginning of time, the Senate and state governor have had a process of Senate confirmation, and Republican and Democratic governors have been able to do it, because that is a process and it’s a professional one.

In this case, it is important to note — just as you mentioned in the intro — that Senate President Petersen created a new committee specifically to vet state directors. And they have not been following exactly what they’re supposed to be doing. Some some of the columns, Lori Roberts essentially says that some of the confirmation hearings appear to be interrogations, not a job interview.

So we know that the president is weaponizing the process and essentially sticking it to the governor by saying, “No, we’re not going to confirm your state directors because of their political ideology.” Well, the governor has the right to work with whomever she wants to. It is her government.

GILGER: And so the judge ruled here that the Senate has a right to confirm nominees. That’s written in state law. Should Hobbs, though, have just sort of gone through this process, even if it was contentious? Let her agency heads kind of defend themselves?

Elvia Díaz
Arizona Republic
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handout | agency | Elvia sent to Sky via Facebook on Oct. 17, 2022.
Elvia Díaz

DÍAZ: You know, that is pretty difficult because normally on the surface, I’ll say, yes, you know, that the process and you need to follow it. However, if you are the governor, you are setting up your government to represent the people and represent the interest of Arizona.

If she was being rejected — as she was, most agency directors — then what are you going to do? You do need them to run state government. So are you just going to wait and let the other side — in this case, the Republicans — just derail your government? No. Your job as a leader is to find a way to actually make it work.

And keep in mind that the biggest losers here are the people of Arizona. State government represents the people and is working for the people. So again, what was Hobbs to do? Just let them keep their circus and sticking it to her and let state government — big state agencies. We’re talking about children, we’re talking about state employees. We’re talking about all kinds of folks in this state.

So, no, she had to find a way to make it work. Otherwise, it is on her.

GILGER: So like you said, all of this kind of comes down to the business of government and both branches co-equal. They’re supposed to be branches of government kind of making that happen. You’re very skeptical they will do as the judge said here and work together to do that.

But what would that look like? What are the possibilities? Would it be a different person leading this committee? Would you like them to go back to the original process, where agency heads were sort of vetted in the committees that had to do with what the agency does?

DÍAZ: Well, that that’s exactly it. They should, in good faith, go through that process. And Petersen should not have his hitmen, as some of the columnists call it. Just go back and do a job interview with the state agency directors, and then just really think about the people of Arizona and also the fact that the governor has a right to assemble her government to her liking.

And not weaponize it. The Senate president is claiming the governor is weaponizing the process by appointing her people. But who’s really doing that? He is weaponizing the process against a Democratic governor. So they need to work in good faith. By they, I mean the specifically the Senate Republicans. Because, again, what else is Hobbs to do?

If I was one of her staffers, I would say use the state budget and whatever is at your disposal to negotiate that with the Republicans. But again, that would not be that process. So just follow it. And I think that’s what some of the columnists are saying: Grow up.

GILGER: Do you think that Senate Republicans are in a position to sort of give here? I mean, essentially they won. This was a lawsuit filed by the Senate president, and the judge ruled that he was right.

DÍAZ: And that’s why he’s taking a victory lap. And that’s why he’s going to say, “Well, you have to go through my process, essentially, and you have to submit all the names again.” So we’ll see what happens. That’s why I’m pretty skeptical. I’m sure the governor will have to do something or work some sort of delay tactics to keep the directors working there.

So we’ll see. But yes, I mean, Petersen is taking a victory lap because a judge agreed with him. But if he really cares about the people of Arizona, he should not be weaponizing the process.

KJZZ’s The Show transcripts are created on deadline. This text may not be in its final form. The authoritative record of KJZZ’s programming is the audio record.

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Lauren Gilger, host of KJZZ's The Show, is an award-winning journalist whose work has impacted communities large and small, exposing injustices and giving a voice to the voiceless and marginalized.