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AWOL mystery: Democrat leaders departed Arizona during Biden visit, leaving Republican in charge

“Either something very strange is going on, or every top Dem in the state just fled rather than getting their photo taken [with] Biden,” said radio show co-host Sam Stone.

Published: September 29, 2023 11:37pm

Updated: September 30, 2023 12:00am

Arizona’s top Democratic leadership left the state while President Joe Biden stopped by for a visit, leaving the Republican state treasurer as acting governor for a brief period.

On Wednesday, Arizona State Treasurer Kimberly Yee (R) released a statement saying that she would be acting governor but didn’t offer a reason.

“I have been notified that I will be serving as Acting Governor beginning later this evening until mid-morning tomorrow,” Yee wrote. “While I am pleased to step into this role, I will refrain from naming directors to the 13 agencies that currently have vacancies and will not call the Arizona Legislature into session to confirm them.

“That being said, I do hope when the Governor returns to Arizona, she will promptly name qualified directors to these important state agencies and remove the legal uncertainty that exists for all of the regulatory actions taken by the agencies,” she added. “I expect to see a swift resolution to this matter, so we can get back to getting the work done for Arizona taxpayers. The people of Arizona deserve leaders who follow the rule of law." 

The directors who Yee referred to are the heads of state agencies. Hobbs nominated 13 state agency directors that Senate President Warren Petersen refuses to confirm because of "incompetency or overt partisanship," reported Capitol Media Services.

Hobbs, Secretary of State Adrian Fontes (D), and Attorney General Kris Mayes (D) were all out of state on Wednesday night, when Biden arrived in Arizona.

The offices of Hobbs, Fontes, and Mayes didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment Friday.

The X (formerly Twitter) account of former Arizona GOP gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake’s campaign posted on Thursday about the state Democratic leadership’s absence during Biden’s arrival.

“.@JoeBiden arrived in Arizona last night,” the Kari Lake War Room account posted. “@katiehobbs, @Adrian_Fontes, & @krismayes all arranged to be out of town during his visit, forcing the Republican Treasurer to assume control of our state. Why did our entire illegitimate state government leave town at the same time?”

Lake has gone to court with election challenges over her lost bid for Arizona governor last year, alleging that irregularities occurred on Election Day and in the signature verification process for mail-in ballots. She is planning to announce her run for U.S. Senate on Oct. 10.

When Biden arrived in Arizona, he was met on the tarmac as he deplaned from Air Force One by Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego (D), as the congressional Democrats from the state were in Washington, D.C., amid the possible government shutdown.

Biden was in Arizona to announce the creation of the John S. McCain III National Library at Arizona State University’s Tempe campus and attend a fundraising event.

Hobbs arrived back in the state in time to attend the announcement of the late senator’s library on Thursday. However, in her press release regarding her speech at the announcement, there is no mention of Biden.

“Today, Governor Katie Hobbs spoke at the announcement of the construction of the John S. McCain Education and Community Center in Tempe,” the press release reads. “It will be housed within Arizona State University as a new multi-purpose facility to provide education, work, and health monitoring programs for underserved communities.

“During the event, Governor Hobbs was joined by members of the McCain family, including Ambassador Cindy McCain,” the release continued. “The State of Arizona was instrumental in securing funding for the Library, leading the application through the federal government’s Capital Projects Fund.”

Radio show and podcast co-host Sam Stone posted on X on Thursday regarding the missing state Democratic leaders, “Either something very strange is going on, or every top Dem in the state just fled rather than getting their photo taken [with] Biden.”

In a press release two weeks earlier, Hobbs called on the federal government to aid the state with border security, specifically referencing the Biden administration.

“My administration has worked tirelessly to support border communities, stem the flow of drugs and human trafficking, and keep our neighborhoods safe,” Hobbs said in a statement. “But as it stands today, Arizona is being overwhelmed. I’m calling on Congress and the Biden administration to come together immediately to deliver much needed border security to the State of Arizona. Federal officials need to put politics aside and pass real solutions that will give our state the resources it needs to manage the increase in migrants at the border.”

Biden was criticized by some county and city officials in Arizona over his decision to not visit the southern border.