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Katie Hobbs is about to be formally sworn in as Arizona's new governor


Katie Hobbs is formally sworn in as Arizona's new governor today. Last fall, the Democrat defeated a Republican backed by former President Trump. Democrats won most other statewide seats, a sign of a red state that now feels purple. Yet, Republicans kept their majority in the state legislature. And some would like to pull their state further right. From member station KJZZ, Ben Giles reports.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: I, Kathleen Marie Hobbs.

KATIE HOBBS: I, Kathleen Marie Hobbs.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Do solemnly swear.

HOBBS: Do solemnly swear.

BEN GILES, BYLINE: Hobbs actually took the oath of office Monday, ahead of today's formal ceremony for all statewide elected officials. The former secretary of state won at a time when Arizona elections were under attack by Republicans, both those in office and those running against her. Shortly after she was declared the winner, Hobbs said she's not going to tolerate election bills pushed by far-right conspiracy theorists, some of whom are leaders in the new state Senate.


HOBBS: I'm not going to coddle somebody who is continuing to spread falsehoods about our election systems or whatever else, even if they're in the majority.

GILES: On the campaign trail, Hobbs questioned Arizona's existing border policies, like former Governor Doug Ducey's shipping container wall and the use of a controversial border strike force. That left one GOP senator saying he felt as though Hobbs was punching Republicans in the face. One of the first things Hobbs did upon taking office was issue an executive order directing state agencies to adopt new anti-discrimination policies. That has the state's religious conservatives fuming. But Democratic lawmakers, like Rebecca Rios, who spent the last two years trying to legislate while Republicans controlled the state House and governor's chair, welcome Hobbs' election.

REBECCA RIOS: We are looking at folks that have been able to do and pass anything they want because they had full control and full power.

GILES: Rios, who's leaving the legislature after a long career in politics, says she isn't expecting miracles either.

RIOS: It is going to be a long session.

GILES: Republicans held their one-vote majorities in the state House and Senate. But the GOP majority this year promises to be more conservative than the last session. Republican Kirk Adams served in the Arizona House in the 2000s, the last time a Democrat, Janet Napolitano, was in the governor's office. He says divided government is difficult.

KIRK ADAMS: I really think these first 90 days of the legislative session are going to be about testing the resolve of the other side.

GILES: Democrat Rebecca Rios says that to succeed as governor, Hobbs will have to strike a centrist path, much like Arizona's two U.S. senators, Democrat Mark Kelly and independent Kyrsten Sinema.

RIOS: Right down the middle is where she needs to be. And I think that's where she will be. And I think that she has appointed people around her that will provide those guardrails and make sure that that remains her focus.

GILES: Republican Adams says Hobbs has already hinted at that centrist tone when it comes to issues like immigration and border security. On the campaign trail, Hobbs criticized the Biden administration for inaction at the border.

ADAMS: That is the middle ground in Arizona.

GILES: Hobbs said in November that she hopes her election and wins by Democrats in other high-level offices signaled to at least some Republicans that Arizona is changing. But there are few indications that the Republicans Arizonans sent to the state House this year are willing to meet her in the middle. Hobbs may instead end up setting a record for the number of vetoes.

For NPR News, I'm Ben Giles in Phoenix.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ben Giles