Why won't Black leaders give Democratic gubernatorial candidate Katie Hobbs a break?
Opinion: 'Politicians almost always overestimate the cost of doing the right thing,' Art Hamilton, former Democratic leader in the Arizona House, said.
Secretary of State Katie Hobbs sent out a two-page letter last week hoping to explain her 2015 involvement in the firing of a Black woman working for the state Senate when Hobbs was the Democratic leader, but … it didn’t work out.
The people she’s trying to reach aren’t buying her explanation.
Talonya Adams prevailed in two trials. In the latest an all-white jury determined that she’d been unfairly discriminated against after complaining about pay disparity between herself and others.
After that verdict, six prominent Black leaders issued a statement decrying Hobbs’ handling of the situation.
After Hobbs’ letter was released, Cloves Campbell, a Black former lawmaker and publisher of the Arizona Informant, said, “It does not change our stance one bit. If anything, it proves our point.”
So, why won’t these prominent members of Arizona’s Black community cut Hobbs some slack?
A former leader talks about leadership
It’s a question I put to Art Hamilton, who was the Democratic leader in the Arizona House for 18 years, and one of those who signed the statement criticizing Hobbs.
Hamilton remains one of the most respected individuals in Arizona politics. In 1988, when The Arizona Republic named him the state’s most effective lawmaker, it said, “He's built like a two-ton truck, but dances circles around most of his colleagues with the finesse of Fred Astaire.”
Another view:Katie Hobbs should bow out of the governor's race
Hamilton was the first African American elected president of the National Conference of State Legislators, and he managed over time to maintain friendships with individuals on both sides of the aisle, including the late Sen. John McCain and former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.
“My bottom line is that when you get paid to lead then that is what you must do,” he told me. “One of the things Katie Hobbs has said is that she was new on the job (as Senate Democratic leader) when this happened. If being new at the job is a legitimate excuse for not handling something properly then I have no idea what she’ll do on her first day as governor.”
You don't emulate the worst of an opponent
Hamilton believes things would have gone better for Hobbs if she had taken more responsibility early on for what happened to Adams.
“Politicians almost always overestimate the cost of doing the right thing,” Hamilton said. “I believe that is what Ms. Hobbs has done.”
There are many who believe Hobbs is being treated unfairly.
They point out that Republicans also were involved in Adams’ firing, but the GOP is not getting the same criticism.
True. Perhaps Republican leaders and their constituents have a different view of the significance of race or gender discrimination.
Hamilton and the others have been asked to tone down or desist in their criticism of Hobbs. They’ve been told it is only helping Republicans, who are not as sympathetic to the concerns of the minority community as someone like Hobbs would be.
To that, Hamilton said, “I find it disturbing that there is this notion among Democrats that they have an obligation to vote for her (Hobbs) because the bogeyman on the other side is worse. I don’t accept that. You cannot decide that the best way to get someone elected is to emulate the worst characteristics of your opponent.”
He paused, and added, “If that is the case, there is no difference between you.”
Reach Montini at email@example.com.
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