The Veto Queen: Governor Katie Hobbs Spends First 100 Days Fighting Right-Wing Attacks

Governor Katie Hobbs surrounded by Republican critics, including (clockwise from left) Kari Lake; Senators Jake Hoffman, Anthony Kern, and Thomas Shope; Turning Point USA co-founder Charlie Kirk; and Senator Justine Wadsack.
Governor Katie Hobbs surrounded by Republican critics, including (clockwise from left) Kari Lake; Senators Jake Hoffman, Anthony Kern, and Thomas Shope; Turning Point USA co-founder Charlie Kirk; and Senator Justine Wadsack. Charlie Powell
To the left, she’s a savior of the disenfranchised. To the right, she’s a squatter in her own office. In her own eyes, Governor Katie Hobbs is “building an Arizona for everyone.”

Polling numbers suggest most Arizonans haven’t made up their minds yet about Hobbs. The public greeted her as a stranger, even though she has more than a decade of experience in elected service and spent nearly 18 months campaigning for the state’s highest office.

That’s just what she wanted. A chance for the outgoing secretary of state to reinvent herself as the moderate voice of reason Arizona so desperately needed in the wake of stolen election whispers — a soothingly sane alternative to impending chaos.

Action-Packed First Act

“January feels like forever ago,” Hobbs told Phoenix New Times.

On January 2, a day after her private swearing-in ceremony, the new governor announced her First 100 Days Initiative. Three months and 25 vetoes later, Hobbs says her tenure has been a smashing success. 

"Looking at the first three months or so in office, I am so proud of everything we have accomplished," Hobbs said in an interview on March 29, just two weeks shy of completing 100 days in office.

But her first months in office have included choppy waters: unforced errors, staffing mishaps, and rookie missteps you might not expect from a public official who's held statewide office before.

The roller coaster ride was present during Hobbs' interview with New Times. The night before she spent 30-minutes with us reflecting on her first 100 days as governor, her press secretary was forced to resign. Two days after the interview, she reshuffled her administration and canned a second top aide. They weren't the first high-profile people to be ushered out of the administration.

But Hobbs is powering ahead, taking up the mantle for Arizona’s dynasty of female governors and painting the office blue for the first time since 2009.

For Democrats, Independents, and a growing faction of moderate Republicans, Hobbs and her veto stamp represent Arizona’s last line of defense against a conspiracy-fixated right wing that's targeting marginalized people.

She's blocked out the noise in her first 100 days. She’s not only governing, she’s campaigning. She’s fundraising. She’s strategizing. She’s planning.

"There are leaders on the other side of the aisle that are going to continue to focus on election denialism and conspiracy theories," Hobbs said. "It is clearly not what Arizonans want. As dangerous as this kind of rhetoric can be, I continue to be focused on doing my job."
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Governor Katie Hobbs said she's laid the groundwork for a successful four-year term.
Elias Weiss

Friends on the Other Side

Timothy Anthony’s heart pounded as he waited in line to enter the Arizona Biltmore on November 8.

It was a sunny Election Day in Phoenix’s tree-lined Arcadia neighborhood, and Anthony watched the hours slowly tick by as rowdy people wearing red MAGA caps squawked about election fraud. Near the door, a reporter from the far-right One America News Network told Anthony his vote wouldn’t count.

Anthony fits the Republican mold pretty well. At 35 years old, he’s a new dad. He works for Charles Schwab as a financial analyst. He helped elect Donald Trump. He supported Karrin Taylor Robson in the Republican primary.

On Election Day, he already knew who he was going to vote for. But for the first time, it wasn’t a Republican.

“It was very loud in the Biltmore,” Anthony told New Times. “The guy behind me was in a red MAGA hat, and he started screaming at me. I couldn’t let the fear overtake me and change what my vote was going to be.”

Anthony is one of 33,000 Republican voters in Maricopa County whose vote for Hobbs was a blue speck on an otherwise red ballot. This bloc is credited with propelling Hobbs to victory, according to a November analysis of public voting records.

“There were people around me filled with biases and hate,” Anthony recalled. “I knew I needed to stay in line and vote. I needed to make sure I did my part as a Republican so I could talk to New Times one day and say, ‘It was me. I was the Republican who voted against fear and hate.’”

Hobbs was widely criticized for refusing to debate both her opponent in the Democratic primary and Republican Kari Lake in the general election, but the unconventional move paid off. As Hobbs flew a below-radar course to victory, Lake’s fearmongering, childish pranks, and “fuck you” attitude turned away voters in droves.

For many, Hobbs’ best quality was simply not being Lake.

“I didn't vote for Hobbs because she's a polished public speaker,” said 68-year-old Raymond Zorz from Anthem. “I voted for her because she's not Trump in a dress, nor someone who disrespects longtime Arizona Republican Senator [John] McCain.”

Hobbs said she doesn’t take Republican votes for granted. A new poll from OH Predictive Insights in Phoenix found that 25 percent of Republicans approve of the job she’s doing, and plenty more are still undecided.

“I am grateful for all the Democrats, all the Republicans, and all the Independents who voted for sanity over chaos in this last election,” she said. “I am absolutely focused on being a governor for all Arizonans.”
Republican political consultant Daniel Scarpinato called the first months of Governor Katie Hobb's tenure "pretty bad."
Gage Skidmore / Creative Commons

Seal Of (Dis)Approval

OH Predictive Insights polled 1,000 registered voters between January 31 and February 9. Of those who opted into the online survey, 350 were Republicans, 310 were Democrats, and 340 were Independents.

Hobbs’ first report card shows that 43 percent of Arizona voters are giving her a thumbs up for her job approval, while 30 percent of voters disapprove.

Mike Noble, chief of research at OH Predictive Insights, said that for Hobbs, these numbers are “pretty good given how visceral the campaign was.”

“With a pretty high-profile race, on the state level, voters view it a little less partisan,” Noble told New Times. “They’re more willing to be more open-minded to the other party.”

Nearly 3 in 4 Democratic voters approve of Hobbs while fewer than 1 in 10 disapprove, according to the poll. Among Independents, about one-third approve, one-third disapprove, and one-third have taken a wait-and-see approach.

And while a quarter of Republicans approve of her job performance, another quarter is reserving judgment.

But these numbers don’t tell the whole story, according to Daniel Scarpinato, the Republican former chief of staff to Governor Doug Ducey who now works as a strategic advisor to the Common Sense Institute in Phoenix.

“I wouldn’t put too much stock in the poll,” Scarpinato told New Times. “Her numbers are pretty weak. These have been a pretty bad three months for her.”

Critics of Hobbs say she hasn’t outlined her agenda well and that her actions so far in office don't match the commitments she made on the campaign trail. She pulled the plug on her promise to hold a special session on abortion and dismissed the entire board of the Arizona-Mexico Commission. Republicans in the state legislature accuse her of stonewalling while fundraising to campaign against them.

“A lot of people didn’t know a ton about Katie Hobbs but thought she was pretty milquetoast, and they were okay with that because it was such a contrast to her opponent,” Scarpinato said. “A lot of those Republicans who did cross over have been surprised at her actions since becoming governor because she has taken a much more progressive posture than what she ran on. They either regret their vote or have doubts about whether they did the right thing.”

Anthony, who said Hobbs “has brought people together in Arizona,” doesn’t regret his vote. But, according to the recent poll, a narrow majority of Republicans disapprove of the job she's doing.

Hobbs dismissed Republican gripes about jilting her agenda.

"I am doing what it takes to deliver on the campaign promises that I made," Hobbs said.
State Senator Juan Mendez, a Democrat from Tempe, applauded Hobbs' for vetoing Republican legislation.
Gage Skidmore / Creative Commons

House Flipping

In February, Hobbs pledged at least $500,000 to flip the Arizona House and Senate to Democratic control in 2024, saying this would be “just the first round of investment” toward legislative races.

Like a popular band or social media influencer, Hobbs launched an online fan merchandise store where she sells gender-neutral apparel, tote bags, and stickers emblazoned with her name. It’s all part of her plan to bankroll legislative Democrats to victory next year.

“With an immediate switch to campaign mode, she is mixing governing and politics in ways that should never occur in her first 100 days,” Scarpinato said.

Hobbs snickered at the claim. “Thankfully, I learned a long time ago how to make two incomes at one time,” she said.

Hobbs has painted herself as gritty and relatable, alluding to a time before politics when she worked as an Uber driver and at a Burger King in Tempe.

Now, she’s working to turn the legislature blue. And there’s a real chance that she will succeed.

Phoenix political consultant Chuck Coughlin said he's been warning Republicans in the state legislature that “if they continue in the manner they're currently behaving, they will be a minority at the end of 2024.”

Democrats welcome the help from Hobbs to drain the state legislature of MAGA extremism.

State Senator Juan Mendez, a three-term Democrat from Tempe, said it’s “everyone’s responsibility,” including the governor, to stay one step ahead of a never-ending election cycle.

“The governor has continuously extended herself out to the Republicans for input on legislation and budget and they continue to ignore her, to disrespect her, to try to remove her from the process,” Mendez told New Times. “Republicans have done everything besides spitting in her face.”

But the GOP sees the situation differently.

“Right out of the gate, she has alienated any ability to work with the legislature,” Scarpinato said. “When you’re disparaging and alienating good people, I think that doesn’t portend very well to getting a legislative agenda done with the opposite party.”

Hobbs says she's just giving the GOP a taste of its own medicine.

"Republicans haven’t stopped campaigning," Hobbs said. "So why should I?"
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"Looking at the first three months or so in office, I am so proud of everything we have accomplished," Hobbs told Phoenix New Times on March 29.
John Moore/Getty Images

The Veto Queen

Hobbs is leveraging her power against Republicans with a tool that’s red, rectangular, and fits in her pocket. It’s the veto stamp she inherited from the state’s last Democratic governor, Janet Napolitano.

And she’s been putting it to use.

Hobbs vetoed the first 15 bills that came across her desk, according to data from her office provided to New Times. As of April 4, she vetoed 25 bills in total and signed 13.

Hobbs caught flak for vetoing a lean budget proposal from Republicans in February. In March, she angered Republicans when she vetoed a bill that would end taxes on groceries and another that would ban “judging an individual on the basis of the individual's race or ethnicity” in schools.

Then, she vetoed a bipartisan bill that would have repealed the "sunrise process,'' a cumbersome step in the process for health care professionals seeking to expand their scope of practice that involves defending the expansion to a legislative committee. All Republican lawmakers and 21 Democrats supported the measure.

“I will support legislation regardless of where it comes from,” Hobbs said. “But I will not sign into law any legislation that attacks people’s rights and doesn’t address serious issues. There is an appetite to send me things that don’t meet those criteria, but that doesn’t mean I’m not willing to work with folks to tackle the real issues.”

On February 16, Hobbs whipped out her veto stamp a whopping 13 times in a single day. She has already broken Napolitano’s record for the most vetos in a first legislative session and is on track to shatter the former governor's record for total vetoes by any Arizona governor.

According to the Arizona Mirror, Hobbs could “veto her way to a Democratic legislative majority” by making a show of vetoing bills that attack drag shows and critical race theory, issues that appeal largely to fringe right-wingers, according to surveys.

“Things like drag and critical race theory, those things don’t come up in conversations about what people are worried about,” Hobbs said, bashing the GOP for eschewing such issues as the water crisis, housing shortage, and education. “Those bills are culture wars. They are just part of an extreme ideology intended to ramp up divisive rhetoric.”

Republicans say Hobbs is trigger-happy with the veto stamp, but Mendez and other Democrats cheered the new governor for exercising her power strategically.

“Knowing that the governor is there as a backstop is exactly what the public wanted when they chose Hobbs over Lake,” Mendez said. “I don’t dread going to work because she is there. If she wasn’t there, we wouldn’t have much of a government to be coming back to next year.”

In addition to the vetoes, Hobbs has signed executive orders to squash race and gender discrimination in hiring for state agencies. She has visited the border three times to discuss security strategy and even met with Republicans — more times than her GOP predecessors met with Democrats in their first 100 days.
Phoenix political consultant Chuck Coughlin said bad behavior by GOP lawmakers could cost them seats in the Arizona Legislature.
Gage Skidmore / Creative Commons

Unforced Errors

Hobbs’ record isn’t spotless. She has come under fire for a number of unforced errors during her first 100 days.

Ahead of her inaugural ceremony and inaugural ball in January, Hobbs asked donors to cough up $250,000 each to cover “costs associated with the swearing-in ceremony,” but she ended up quietly using prison labor to set up the events.

Her picks for director of the Department of Child Safety, Matthew Stewart, and her press secretary, Josselyn Berry, were both forced to resign. Her choice to lead the state health department, Theresa Cullen, was rejected by a Senate committee, which was created to vet Hobbs' cabinet nominees, for being too “extreme" despite nearly 30 years in public service and a stint as director of Pima County’s Health Department.

“I don’t think that the first 100 days have been 100 days that left a very good impression,” said Scarpinato, the Republican strategist. “First impressions really do matter in this business.”

But in her interview with New Times, Hobbs called Cullen's rejection “absolutely unprecedented,” saying the Senate's Director Nominations Committee had devolved into “a stage for political theater where these folks have decided to engage in personal attacks rather than truly vetting the qualifications of the nominee.”

“It is really unfortunate that so many of our qualified nominees have been caught up in this political gamesmanship,” the governor added.

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Governor Katie Hobbs took the oath of office on January 5 as her husband Patrick Goodman watched.
Elias Weiss

Fighting Off The Lies

In her first 100 days as governor, Hobbs has faced relentless pressure from Republicans to resign from her position after what they allege is a “stolen election,” or “selection,” that saw Hobbs affirm her own win as secretary of state.

Beyond that, she also has fought valiantly against even more far-fledged and unsubstantiated conspiracy theories that link her to illicit activities, such as cartel bribes, money laundering, and even murder.

During a Senate hearing in February, a Scottsdale insurance agent testified — without evidence — that Hobbs was in the pockets of the Sinaloa Cartel.

“If the legislature wasn’t trying to play games and attack other Arizonans, we wouldn’t be having this part of the conversation,” Hobbs said.

These accusations aren’t just political theater — they are dangerous calls to action. In July 2022, the FBI arrested a Massachusetts man who threatened to kill Hobbs with a bomb amid false claims that she unlawfully certified Joe Biden’s victory in Arizona in 2020.

But Hobbs isn’t backing down.

“The election denialism, the conspiracy theories … These are obviously just ridiculous lies, and they continue to get more outrageous every time a conspiracy theory is debunked,” Hobbs said. “It’s very daunting, to put it honestly, to be in politics because of this type of rhetoric. These viewpoints don't represent the majority. If they did, I wouldn’t be sitting here as governor.”

The Next 100 Days

In her next 100 days in office, Hobbs plans to finalize a state budget and compromise with Republicans on other key issues.

She said that her first 100 days “laid the groundwork” for a prolific four-year term.

“I can promise that, in the next 100 days, we will make progress on our bipartisan budget and all the things we talked about,” Hobbs said. “We will move the needle on issues that are actually important to Arizonans.”
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Elias Weiss is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times who covers everything from politics and sports to gambling and electric vehicles. A native of Charlotte, North Carolina, he reported first for the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and was managing editor of the Chatham Star-Tribune in Southern Virginia, where he covered politics and courts. In 2020, the Virginia Press Association awarded him first place in the categories of Government Writing and Breaking News Writing for non-daily newspapers statewide, and in 2021, the Virginia Press Association awarded him first place in the categories of Long-Form News Writing and Headline Writing. His Arizona politics coverage has been featured in The Daily Beast.
Contact: Elias Weiss

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