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What to expect from Arizona’s new governor Katie Hobbs

Hobbs, the state’s first Democratic governor in 14 years, will work with Republican majorities in the legislature

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New Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs takes the oath of office in a ceremony at the state Capitol in Phoenix, Monday, Jan. 2, 2023.

New Arizona Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs takes the oath of office in a ceremony at the state Capitol in Phoenix, Monday, Jan. 2, 2023.

Ross D. Franklin, Associated Press

Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs was sworn in Monday, becoming the state’s first Democratic governor in 14 years, but she’ll need to work across the aisle to get things done.

Hobbs will work with Republican majorities in the state legislature, and in a statement after taking office, she promised bipartisanship, saying, “the needs of Arizonans — not partisan politics — will always come first.”

“I will work with Republicans, Democrats, and independents to tackle our state’s biggest challenges,” Hobbs wrote.

Arizona Senate President Pro Tempore T.J. Shope, a Republican, said the legislative session could be a “less is more type of session.”

“We have not been in this situation with the divided government in Arizona for over a decade,” he said. “I’m one of the longest serving legislators, and I’ve never experienced it, so we’re all in a type of a brand new mode of operation.”

Shope said he believes they’ll be able to work with Hobbs on water and attracting businesses to the state, but issues including law enforcement and border security will be handled differently.

“I have to imagine that those are going to be things that are going to be dealt with much differently under a Hobbs administration than the Ducey or Brewer administrations of the past,” he said.

Hobbs said her priorities as governor would include education, water, abortion rights and making Arizona more affordable. Her first act as governor was signing an executive order Monday prohibiting employment discrimination in state hiring and promotion. On Tuesday, she asked the Arizona Department of Administration — which handles the state’s administrative and business operations — to expand paid family sick leave benefits for state employees.

Top priorities

Arizona voters say their top priorities for the state include immigration, the economy, education and long-term water supplies, according to a survey from the Center for the Future of Arizona, updated last year. The survey found 64% of likely voters said they prefer candidates who are willing to compromise.

Hobbs’ narrow win over Republican Kari Lake in November’s election means she has less of a mandate than if she had a wider margin of victory, but her experience as a former state lawmaker could prove beneficial, said Kristoffer Shields, an assistant research professor at Rutgers University’s Eagleton Institute of Politics and historian at the Eagleton Center on the American Governor.

“The most effective approach is to start by finding common ground,” Shields said. “There are going to be times when it’s difficult, but that doesn’t mean that it’s ungovernable. There certainly are ways that she’ll be able to find to work with Republicans in the legislature.”

Arizona faces challenges including inflation, which reached 13% in August 2022, the highest rate in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Hobbs’ office says she wants to allow communities to build more affordable housing and address homelessness. The state also had to reduce its water allocation this year as the region faces a continuing mega-drought. Hobbs plans to establish a Governor’s Resiliency Office to secure the state’s water supply.

When it comes to border security, former Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, bused migrants to Washington, D.C., while he was in office, and had shipping containers installed along the border as a makeshift wall. Hobbs’ office called it “imperative” for the Biden administration to increase both border security and legal immigration and said she wants to increase funding for sheriffs and local law enforcement at the border, as well as community centers and hospitals.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision last year, abortion policy in Arizona has been in limbo because of dueling bans passed in 1864 and 2022. Hobbs said she would call a special legislative session to repeal the earlier ban, but after the Arizona Appeals Court ruled doctors couldn’t be punished for breaking a law passed before Arizona could become a state, her spokeswoman said the session would be unnecessary. The state now has a 15-week ban.

Hobbs was sworn in during a private ceremony in Phoenix with a public inaugural ceremony to be held Thursday. Still to come will be her first state of the state address and budget proposal. Ducey left a note for Hobbs after leaving office congratulating her on her win, telling her that she and her family were in his prayers and that he was only a phone call away.