Arizona’s Republican-controlled legislature has moved to strip power from Secretary of State Katie Hobbs in election-related lawsuits, handing that power instead to the attorney general’s office.
The measure, which was contained within a budget reconciliation bill (pdf), seeks to stop Hobbs, a Democrat, from playing a role in lawsuits related to state election rules while giving the attorney general’s office “sole authority” to defend Arizona election laws. The bill now heads to the desk of Gov. Doug Ducey, who hasn’t signaled opposition to it.
The bill’s language regarding curtailing Hobbs’s power is “necessary to ensure the faithful defense of the State’s election integrity laws and to eliminate confusion created by the Secretary of State about who speaks for Arizona in court,” Katie Conner, spokeswoman for Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich, told the Arizona Mirror. His office also accused Hobbs of filing “politically motivated bar complaints against” his office’s lawyers to “target their professional standing and reputation.”
The version of the measure that passed on the night of June 24 says the “attorney general has sole authority in all election litigation to direct the defense of election laws, to appeal or petition any decision, and to intervene on behalf of this state at any stage” until Jan. 2, 2023, which is when Hobbs’s term ends.
The bill would also bar the attorney general’s office from providing legal advice or representing the secretary of state. Hobbs also can’t use public funds to hire lawyers relating to election litigation, and additionally limits her to hiring one full-time legal adviser.
Hobbs, who has frequently criticized the ongoing audit of Maricopa County’s 2020 election results, decried the passage of the bill late last week and accused Republicans of retaliating against her “because they did not like the outcome of the Presidential Election,” according to a statement released by her office.
Meanwhile, Democrats in the legislature echoed her statement, with state Sen. Lisa Otondo calling the bill a “power grab.”
“I really believe this is not about policy, but about politics,” Otondo said during a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing last week.
But Republicans last week said Hobbs’s move to file a bar complaint (pdf) against Brnovich and other top attorneys in his office had crossed the line. In the complaint filed last year, Hobbs alleged that Brnovich and his attorneys violated rules of ethical conduct relating to several election law cases in which the attorney general represented the secretary of state’s office.
“I don’t know what’s more political than the secretary of state submitting bar charges against the entire upper echelon of the AG’s Office,” said state Sen. Vince Leach, a Republican, according to the Arizona Mirror. “I would say the unprecedented attack on our attorney general, his chief deputy, and many high-level attorneys is uncalled for.”
Hobbs is currently running for governor of Arizona, while Brnovich is running for Senate.
The Epoch Times has contacted Hobbs’s office and Brnovich’s office for additional comment.