Democrat Hobbs defends decision not to debate GOP's Lake in tight Arizona gubernatorial race

By Shawna Mizelle, CNNUpdated: Wed, 02 Nov 2022 15:20:09 GMTSource: CNNArizona Democratic gubernatorial nominee Katie Hobbs on Wednesday continued to defend her decision to not debate her Republican o

By Shawna Mizelle, CNN

Updated: Wed, 02 Nov 2022 15:20:09 GMT

Source: CNN

Arizona Democratic gubernatorial nominee Katie Hobbs on Wednesday continued to defend her decision to not debate her Republican opponent, Kari Lake, despite polls showing a close race and criticism from some Democratic allies.

"You know, not only is Kari Lake -- has she centered her entire platform around this election denialism, I didn't want to give her a bigger stage to do that," Hobbs, a Democrat, told "CNN This Morning." "She has shown that she's not interested in any kind of substantive conversation, she's only interested in creating a spectacle."

It's a stance Hobbs has stood by throughout the closing days of the campaign -- she told CNN's Dana Bash last month that such an event wouldn't move voters -- but it has provided an opening for Lake, a Donald Trump acolyte whose campaign has labeled Hobbs a "coward" for refusing to take the stage with her.

Polling released in recent days has indicated that the race is in a statistical dead heat.

David Axelrod, a former senior adviser to President Barack Obama, has previously told CNN that the Hobbs campaign's stance on debates, which breaks with a 20-year debate tradition by major party candidates in Arizona, is a "mistake."

"When you're running to be the chief executive of a state, strength becomes a leading indicator and that's true in any executive position. So, when you refuse to debate, it can be construed as weakness and fear," Axelrod said. "The way you deal with falsehoods is to challenge the person who's promoting them," Axelrod added of Lake's baseless focus on the 2020 election being stolen.

Pressed by CNN's Don Lemon on Wednesday as to why she wouldn't use a debate opportunity to confront Lake's false election claims, Hobbs said, "Look, we're six days out from the election and our campaign strategy is our campaign strategy. So, we're moving forward. I'm continuing to make my case to the voters of Arizona. Whether or not we debated in this race is not going to decide this election. We made a decision, didn't want to be a part of her spectacle."

Hobbs, who currently serves as Arizona secretary of state, also said her office has been concerned about potential voter intimidation as some right-wing activists -- including some armed with guns -- have been accused of gathering near Arizona drop boxes or photographing voters near drop boxes since voting began.

On Tuesday, a federal judge in Arizona imposed new restrictions on one right-leaning group, blocking members from openly carrying guns or wearing body armor within 250 feet of drop boxes and speaking to or yelling at voters dropping off their ballots in the state.

"I'm very glad about the ruling yesterday that provided for a restraining order on this type of activity because we have received so many reports of voters feeling intimidated," Hobbs said.

Last month, Hobbs' office referred to the US Department of Justice and Arizona Attorney General's Office a report of voter intimidation, CNN previously reported, and Hobbs on Wednesday said they "have continued to forward complaints."