Gov. Doug Ducey stands by election as Gov.-elect Katie Hobbs starts transition to power

Stacey Barchenger
Arizona Republic

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and his Democratic successor, Gov.-elect Katie Hobbs, met Wednesday for the first time since Hobbs won the office, with Ducey pledging cooperation during crunch time for Hobbs to assemble her team.

In a meeting that lasted about 30 minutes in Ducey's office, the outgoing Republican governor congratulated Hobbs and pledged to make the transition "as smooth and seamless as possible" to ensure Hobbs and her team "can hit the ground running and continue our state's incredible momentum."

As Republican candidates who lost continue to challenge or cast doubt on the election results, including Hobbs' GOP opponent Kari Lake, Ducey again stood firm in his faith in the process, as he had done two years ago under pressure from former President Donald Trump.

“All of us have waited patiently for the democratic process to play out," Ducey said in a Wednesday statement. "The people of Arizona have spoken, their votes have been counted, and we respect their decision."

The cordial transition of power comes as Arizona's next governor is assembling her administration and barreling toward a frenzied first two weeks in office.

Though some details are still fluid, Hobbs' chief of staff, Allie Bones, said Wednesday that statewide candidates likely will be sworn in during a private ceremony Jan. 2, the first Monday in January, as required by the Arizona Constitution.

Because New Year's Day falls on Sunday next year, the holiday is observed Monday. As a result, the incoming administration is planning an invite-only inauguration address later in the week, Bones said in a call with reporters.

"We have been working closely with (the Arizona Department of Administration) and the (Arizona Department of Public Safety) to create an event that will not only be safe and secure, but also not create a huge logistical problem for the state in terms of putting on the event," Bones said.

Hobbs named Bones, who is currently assistant secretary of state, to serve as her chief of staff earlier this week.

On Jan. 9, a week after being sworn in, Hobbs will deliver her first State of the State address to the 90 members of the Legislature and deliver her budget proposal Jan. 13. Both speeches will set the tone for Hobbs' agenda for her first year in office, offering road maps of her priorities.

"I think you will see the priorities that Governor-elect Hobbs laid out in her campaign as the things that she focuses on in terms of moving the budget forward," Bones said. "Obviously there'll be things like in education, we'll be looking at spending there, housing, the economy and jobs and ways that we can help support families that are struggling in this economy."

Hobbs intends to meet with Republican and Democratic legislative leadership as well as budget committee chairs, said Mike Haener, co-chair of her transition. Haener, a former deputy to Arizona's last Democratic governor, Janet Napolitano, also led Hobbs' 2018 transition when she was elected Arizona secretary of state.

Before the opening chapter of her four-year term, Hobbs will assemble her executive team and evaluate individuals to head Arizona's about three dozen state agencies. If tradition holds, that could mean vast turnover among current department leaders.

Transition co-chairs Haener and Monica Villalobos, a Republican and president of the Arizona Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, are charged with that effort, receiving assists from 30 other team members to sort through a flood of job candidates and make recommendations to Hobbs.

That larger group, announced Tuesday, includes a mix of Democrats and Republicans, advocates and business owners and local elected officials.

"It's important to know that from the beginning this has been a very diverse effort," Villalobos said. "And now in the transition committee, I think Mike and I are a good example of sort of being polar opposites on different areas. But that's the commitment of the governor-elect, to bring not only a diversity of demographics, but a diversity of ideology, a diversity of perspective, that is truly reflective of the state."

Hobbs was declared the winner of a hard-fought race to replace Ducey on Nov. 14, nearly a week after Election Day. As Arizona's secretary of state, her duties include certifying, or canvassing, the statewide results on Dec. 5.