Democrat Kris Mayes Becomes Arizona’s Attorney General—Every Vote Counts! January 5, 2023
How did I spend my New Years? The way many other Americans did. On 1/02/23, I watched Pasadena, CA’s, Tournament of Roses Parade. It was thrilling to see that the Parade’s 2023 Grand Marshall was former AZ Democratic Congressmember Gabby Giffords. Giffords, after being shot in the head by an insane constituent on 1/08/11, miraculously survived, but had to give up her seat because of her severe brain injuries. She has come a long way with much therapy and continues to improve. Her husband, former naval aviator/astronaut and recently re-elected AZ Democratic Senator Mark Kelly, rode down Pasadena’s Colorado Blvd. sitting next to her (KTLA, Channel 5). Sunbelt AZ was, for decades, Goldwater Country. The Grand Canyon State was part of the Electoral College bloc that propelled Ronald Reagan to two presidential victories and gave us arch-conservative Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist.
Goldwater and Reagan put AZ in the dripping “Dark Red” State column in the 1960’s through the 1980’s. Since the late 20th Century, and, certainly, in the 21st, AZ has become a swing state that has a “purple” political color. Hispanics make up 31.70% of the state’s population. The Native American population is strong here and many immigrants to the state have now joined the “Blue” Camp in fast- growing Maricopa County, the home of Phoenix. Bill Clinton took AZ in 1996. In 2016, Hillary lost AZ to Donald by just 3.5 points (Cohen & Cook Political Almanac 2022). In 2020, Biden beat Trump in AZ 49%-48% (Cohen & Cook 2022). Mark Kelly won a special election in 2020 to fill the last two years of the late GOP Sen. John McCain’s term and was re-elected to his own six-year term in 2022 (Cohen & Cook, 2022 Almanac). Before she went on her own wacky “independent” path, Kyrsten Sinema won election to the U.S. Senate in AZ as a Democrat in 2018 (cnn.com, Cohen & Cook 2022). In 2022, when the GOPers put up far-right/far out Trump zany election deniers, Democrats defeated them. Democrat Katie Hobbs won the governorship over wild Trump fan Kari Lake and flipped the governorship into the “Blue” column. Democrat Adrian Fontes will take Dem. Hobbs’ seat as Secretary of State. Fontes defeated another Trump extremist, Mark Finchem. And finally, on 12/29/2022, Democrat Kris Mayes won the race for AZ Attorney General by a nail-biting 280 vote recount (theguardian.com, Levine, S., 12/30/22). With Mayes’ win over GOP nominee Abraham Hamadeh, another Trump devotee, “Team Blue,” won the top three political posts in the Grand Canyon State (theguardian.com, 12/30/22, cnn.com, 12/29/22). Let’s focus on the Mayes race.
Kristin Kay Mayes (51) is the second woman elected AZ Attorney General after Dem. Janet Napolitano. Napolitano later became Governor before President Obama picked her to head Homeland Security. Mayes is the second openly LGBTQ person elected to statewide office in AZ after Sinema (metroweekly.com, Riley, J., 12/29/22, Kavaler, T., 12/29/22, azcentral.com). Mayes was born and grew up in Prescott, AZ, the town where Virgil Earp (Wyatt Earp’s brother) and Doc Holliday lived before their Wild West gunfight at the O.K. Corral. GOP Senator Barry Goldwater launched his 1964 presidential campaign in Prescott (ancestry.com, Roberts,G). Mayes was raised on a tree farm. Her parents worked in pharmacy and education. They took care of the farm on nights and weekends (krismayes.com). At Tempe’s Arizona State Universiy, (ASU) Mayes was editor-in-chief of its newspaper, “The State Press.” She had a college internship with the South African “Johannesburg Star” newspaper where she covered the fall of apartheid in 1993 (krismayes.com). Mayes graduated as her class valedictorian with a political science degree. She worked as a reporter for the “Phoenix Gazette” as well as for “The Arizona Republic,” where she covered the state’s legislature. Mayes earned a Master of Public Administration from NY’s Columbia University. In 2000, she covered the presidential campaigns of Sen. John McCain and W. Bush. During that time, she co-authored a book, “Spin Priests: Campaign Advisors and the 2000 Race for the White House.” After the 2000 race, Mayes attended the Tempe ASU College of Law and graduated magna cum laude (wiki).
In 10/03, Mayes, then a Republican, was appointed to the AZ Corporation Commission by Democratic Gov. Napolitano. Mayes had been Napolitano’s press secretary during the latter’s 2002 gubernatorial campaign and later worked for Gov. Napolitano’s administration. In the Corporation Commission office, Mayes emphasized pipeline safety, renewable energy, and natural gas issues. She helped create tens of thousands of high-paying jobs and saved Arizona consumers billions of dollars. She required utilities to produce more clean energy, including solar and wind, which saved money and reduced air pollution. Mayes oversaw one of the largest utility water conservation programs in state history. Mayes ordered the violators of AZ securities laws to pay fines of tens of millions of dollars in restitution to victims. Mayes persuaded one of the biggest gasoline pipelines in the U.S. to repair or replace most of the company’s 617 miles of pipelines in AZ after a major line ruptured in Tucson. In this office, Mayes persuaded a monopoly railroad company not to construct a hazardous facility next to a city hospital, school, and neighborhood (krismayes.com). She was elected to a full term in 2004 in a special election and later became chair of the AZ Corporation Commission. In 2010, Mayes was term limited. In 2019, Mayes left the GOP and became a Democrat. She stated she had joined the Democrats because of the expansion of Trumpism within the GOP (theguardian.com, 7/29/22). In her 2022 campaign for Attorney General, Mayes vowed to “depoliticize” that office. She also stated she would not enforce abortion restrictions in AZ (cnn.com, Cohen, Bradner, & Holzberg DePalo, 12/29/22).
Let’s meet Mayes’ GOP opponent for AZ Attorney General, Abraham Hamadeh. Hamadeh (31) received his undergraduate degree in political science from ASU and his law degree from Arizona College of Law. Hamadeh was a former intelligence officer who served in the U.S. Army Reserve. He worked as a prosecutor in the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office (ballotpedia.org, dailybuzz.com, 11/15/22). Hamadeh was a hard core GOPer from the get-go. In his teenage years, he supported one- time presidential hopeful, hard-line libertarian former TX GOP Cong. Ron Paul, the father of KY’s U.S. Senator Rand Paul. During that time, Hamadeh dabbled in bigotry as well. Hamadeh posted anti-Semitic comments on a forum for Ron Paul supporters (jta.org, Kampeas, 12/29/22). In his 2022 Attorney General race against Mayes, Hamadeh received Demagogue Donald’s endorsement (theguardian.com, Levine, 12/30/22). Hamadeh kept repeating Trump’s lies about the 2020 election being stolen by Joe Biden and his Democrats. Hamadeh promised that should he win, he would increase the size of the Attorney General’s election integrity unity office (cnn.com, Cohen, et al, 12/29/22). Translation: Hamadeh would go after Democratic winners with charges of imaginary “voter fraud.” In fact, at a 10/2022 campaign rally where he appeared along with Donald, Hamadeh stated, “It’s time we lock up some people and put handcuffs on them (cnn.com, Cohen, et al, 12/29/22).”
The Mayes-Hamadeh 11/2022 race was one of the closest in AZ history. After the 11/2022 midterm, Mayes led Hamadeh by 510 votes (“2022 General Election Results,” AZ Sec. of State). Under AZ law, a mandatory recount was necessary in this contest because the vote difference was significantly less than the 0.5% threshold required by state law for recounts (msn.com, 11/23/22). The recount started on 12/05/22. On 12/29/22, Judge Timothy Thomason announced the recount’s results. Mayes had won the race with a reduced margin of 280 votes out of 2.5 million cast (Kavaler, 11/21/22, azcentral.com, clerkofcourt.maricopa.gov, 12/29/22, nytimes.com, Vigdor & Berzon, 12/29/22).
Attorney General-elect Mayes responded to her recount victory with these words, “I’m excited and ready to get to work as your next attorney general and vow to be your lawyer for the people (theguardian.com, Levine, 12/30/22). And what was Hamadeh’s reaction? Hamadeh refused to concede. Ronna McDaniel, Republican National Committee (RNC) chair also refused to concede and called for a further recount (theguardian.com). Election deniers pointed to technical glitches on Election Day which disrupted some ballot counting in Maricopa County, AZ’s most populous county. These deniers fueled conspiracy theories and baseless claims about a “compromised” election. However, election officials in Maricopa County, which is led by Republicans, defended the voting process. They said that there was no evidence that voters were turned away from casting ballots (Vigdor & Berzpon nytimes.com, 12/29/22). Again, just like their “leader” Demagogue Donald, no GOP candidate can ever lose an election. If they do, it was “stolen” from them. The Big Lie, election denial ,remains alive and well in the Trump-captured “Team Red” party.
What can we learn from Mayes’ close victory? Lesson#1—Every vote counts. A “win is a win,” whether one triumphs by one million votes or just 280. Lesson #2—Democrats must vote in droves in every race presidential and down-ballot midterms to win. AZ may be a ”Purple”-colored state, but GOPers still win elections here in many cases.Tom Horne, a GOPer, won a race for state superintendent of public instruction after a recount. Liz Harris, a GOPer who spread misinformation about elections, won a recount for an AZ state legislative seat (theguardian.com, Levine, 123/30/22). GOPer Kimberly Yee won re-election for State Treasurer without a recount (cnn.com, Cohen et al, 12/29/22). AZ, no doubt, will be hotly contested for its presidential votes in 2024.“Team Blue” can take nothing for granted. And finally, we must remember and act upon Lesson #3—Democrats and moderates must constantly refute the “Big Trump Lie” about “rigged elections” whenever this canard is uttered. The health of our democracy depends upon it.