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AG and Maricopa County attorney both say they'll investigate Hobbs; both face pressure not to

Two headshots of women
Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services
Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell and Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes.
Hear Camryn Sanchez with host Lauren Gilger on The Show

Democratic Attorney General Kris Mayes says Republicans pressuring her to recuse herself from an investigation of Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs are engaging in a partisan stunt.

Hobbs faces allegations she favored a state contractor who donated to her campaign. State Treasurer Kimberly Yee, a Republican, told Mayes to defer an investigation of whether Hobbs broke the law to Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell, also a Republican.

Yee claims Mayes and Hobbs’s professional relationship as attorney general and governor creates what Yee calls a conflict of interest.

And Yee says that conflict will harm the integrity of the investigation.

A spokesperson for Mayes said Yee’s concerns are unfounded.

“The employees of our criminal division have all taken oaths to uphold Arizona's constitution and its laws, and they are going to conduct a thorough nonpartisan professional investigation into this matter,” spokesperson Richie Taylor said.

State Rep. David Livingston (R-Peoria) also urged Mayes to recuse herself, claiming that she’s a biased Democrat who will put her party first. Livingston also noted that the state contractor in question, Sunshine Residential Homes, has given political donations to not just Hobbs, but the Arizona Democratic Party.

“You and your campaign clearly benefited from (the Arizona Democratic Party’s) fundraising for your Attorney General fund, and you should have recused yourself from the investigation,” Livingston wrote to Mayes.

Taylor said Mayes won’t respond to Livingston.

Mayes has also asked Mitchell not to run a parallel investigation while the Attorney General’s office pursues its own review of allegations against Hobbs.

Mitchell responded to Mayes in a letter on Tuesday, saying she “will not stand aside.”

“We will prosecute it as well, if that is where the evidence leads,” Mitchell wrote.

She added that she agrees with Mayes’ earlier statement that two parallel investigations could complicate things and asked her not to “duplicate efforts.”

Though Mitchell did not accuse Mayes or her employees of not being able to handle an investigation like this with integrity, she said it would have bad optics.

“[We] are in a time where people are increasingly distrustful of government. Your insistence on being the sole investigator in this matter will greatly contribute to people’s distrust but also their belief that nothing can change,” Mitchell wrote.

If Mayes’ investigation continues, it wouldn’t be the first time that an attorney general has investigated an Arizona governor of the same party.

Former Attorney General Bob Corbin investigated a fellow Republican, former Gov. Ed Mecham, after Mecham was accused of failing to disclose a $350,000 loan from a Tempe developer. According to an archived article in the New York Times, Mechum said his failure to disclose was a mistake and accused Corbin of carrying out a political vendetta against him.

Mecham asked Corbin to recuse himself, arguing there was a conflict of interest due to a statutory attorney-client relationship between their respective offices.

Corbin refused and brought the case before a state grand jury, which indicted Mecham in 1988.

In the 1990s, former Republican Gov. Fife Symington and former Republican Attorney General Grant Woods frequently butted heads, including over the issue of who should represent the governor in legal issues.

Woods investigated Symington and two of his aides for allegedly inappropriately granting contracts to Symington’s private law firm. Symington asked Republican Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley to conduct an investigation instead of Woods.

Romley and Woods ultimately conducted independent investigations. Symington faced no charges stemming from either inquiry, but his aides were indicted following a federal investigation.

More recently, former Attorney General Mark Brnovich investigated fellow Republican former Gov. Doug Ducey amid allegations that Ducey violated state law by using state resources to gather opposition against a ballot measure in 2020. Brnovich concluded that Ducey did not violate state law.

Camryn Sanchez is a field correspondent at KJZZ covering everything to do with state politics.
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