Lake labels Ducey a human trafficker during Hispanic chamber event

It wasn’t a debate, which is what we all really wanted to see, but we did get to watch the Republican and Democratic candidates for Arizona governor respond, one at a time, to hot topic questions about what they plan to do if they get the job.

Last week’s candidate forum was hosted by the Arizona and U.S. Hispanic Chambers of Commerce and sponsored by the Si Se Vota CPLC Action Fund — which is spending $10 million in this election cycle on a non-partisan campaign to boost Latino voter turnout called Latino Loud

Arizona’s 2.3 million Latinos now make up a third of the state’s population, and the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials predicts 644,000 Latinos will vote in November. Nationally, 11.6 million Latinos are expected to vote in the midterms.

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Today, there are some 32 million eligible Latino voters nationwide, and 1 million Latinos reach voting age every year. 

First up at the forum was Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, the Democratic Party’s nominee for governor. Hobbs has become a national figure in efforts to counter the GOP’s baseless claims that former President Donald Trump was cheated out of winning his reelection bid in 2020. 

He wasn’t. It’s a lie. There’s no evidence to back up that charge and dozens of court cases and ballot recounts have proven it wrong.

But that hasn’t stopped Hobbs’ Republican opponent, Kari Lake, from repeatedly spreading that lie during her campaign or insisting that Joe Biden is only president because of massive fraud at the polls. 

Trump, at a Mesa campaign rally last week in support of Lake and other Republican candidates in Arizona, repeated false claims the election was “rigged” and “stolen.” 

“I ran twice. I won twice,” Trump told the crowd.

One of the toughest things about running for office, unless you’re a demagogue, is the need to not only sound like you know what you’re talking about but to actually know what you’re talking about.

Hobbs, unlike Lake and Trump, is no demagogue. She may come across on stage as somewhat overwhelmed by the entire experience, but she’s basically a well-intentioned public servant who’s been on a fast learning curve going from relative obscurity to running in one of the most high-stakes elections in the nation’s history — the stakes are that high — and all while facing death threats from Trump supporters just for doing her job.

But where do Hobbs and Lake stand on the issues?

Here’s a rundown of the answers the candidates provided to national Univision Anchor Leon Krauze. The forum opened with Hobbs.

Hobbs

On education, she blames Republicans for not investing enough in our public schools and opposes a new law that is funneling millions in state taxpayer dollars to fund vouchers that parents can use to send their kids to private schools. Hobbs predicts $1 billion will eventually go to bankroll the voucher program. Students of color, and especially Latino students, will suffer disproportionately as a result of the voucher program, she said. Underfunding public schools, she added, is hurting the economy by leaving students unprepared to enter the workforce. If elected, she’d push for more public school funding.

On abortion, Hobbs opposed the U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. She pledged to call a special legislative session to repeal an 1864 abortion law that was reinstated in September and recently put on hold by a state court. She added that she would lead a ballot initiative to roll back a state abortion law passed by Republicans earlier this year that bans the procedure after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

On immigration, Hobbs says Congress needs to pass a comprehensive reform bill that establishes a more orderly immigration process, which she says would dissuade illegal immigration, boost our economy by growing the nation’s labor pool and lower inflation. But Hobbs, like many establishment politicians, also wants the federal government to step up border security. That, despite the fact that sending tens of thousands more agents to guard the border over the past 20 years has done little to reduce undocumented immigration. To her credit, Hobbs calls what’s happening at our border with Mexico a humanitarian crisis, and rejects Lake’s race-baiting claim that it’s “an invasion” that’s undermining our society.

Asked why she won’t debate Lake directly, Hobbs said Lake is more interested in ”creating a spectacle” and sparking a “shouting match” than participating in a civil debate over substantive issues. Hobbs is probably right, but as Lake pointed out, that doesn’t explain why Hobbs declined to debate  businessman Marco Lopez, her opponent in the Democratic primary, who is hardly known for creating spectacles.

On how to reduce opioid-related deaths in Arizona, which kill more than 200 people a month statewide, Hobbs, a former social worker, said she would boost drug abuse treatment programs and step up cooperation between state and federal law enforcement to combat cross-border drug trafficking. Hobbs noted that Lake has called to dismantle the FBI.

To address the state’s growing water shortage, Hobbs says she would convene major stakeholders on the issue to develop solutions to the growing crisis, and work to promote conservation measures, like water recycling. She also wants to create a state energy plan to address climate change, which scientists say has worsened drought conditions in Arizona and increased the frequency and intensity of wildfires.

Curiously, the one question Krauze posed that seemed to stump Hobbs was this: “Growing up in Arizona…What have you specifically learned from the Latino community?” Hobbs appeared caught off guard by the question, even though she was speaking to a mostly Latino audience.

She hemmed and hawed before finally settling on “Arizona wouldn’t be Arizona without what the Latino community brings.” That seems pretty obvious. But how about the fact that Latinos account for more than $60 billion in consumer spending every year and now account for nearly 50% of the children in our public schools. Or that Latinos are becoming an ever more critical part of our electorate in an ever more important swing state, and addressing the issues that matter to them is critical. Or that Hispanic women make up the fastest-growing segment of small business growth in the state. Or that Latinos are not a monolith, politically, culturally or ethnically. Or that when you survey Latinos, that they care about all of the same major issues that non-Latino voters care about, like jobs, the economy, growing health care costs and abortion, but they care about these issues through a Latino lens.

I could go on, but I’ll leave it at this. If Hobbs is elected governor, she should be better prepared to answer that question and address the issues Latinos care about because, yes, “Arizona wouldn’t be Arizona without what the Latino community brings,” and that’s never going to change.

Lake

For her part, Lake was asked many, but not all, of the same questions Hobbs fielded at the forum.

On immigration, as with a number of other issues, the audience was treated to a version of the Republican candidate I’ll call “Lake-lite” — meaning she avoided many of her more outrageous stances and allegations, including her claim that Hobbs should be jailed for certifying the 2020 election, or that she wants journalists in the “corrupt media” jailed as well. 

Lake told Krause she supports “legal immigration.” Hmm, I don’t know anyone who supports illegal immigration, except human smugglers who ferry undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers north across the border.

The point she was making is that Democrats, in her view, support and even encourage illegal immigration, though she offers no evidence to back that up. President Joe Biden, she alleged, has “handed over” control of the border to international drug cartels. False. If true, the same claim would apply to every U.S. president for the past several decades. They’ve all tried to control the border, to varying degrees of success. No president has ever declared, “I give up. Drug cartels, go for it.” Not to mention, who gobbles up and pays top dollar for those illicit drugs? Us. The American people. We order it and the cartels dish it out.

Still, according to Lake, “We had the most secure border” under Trump. Huh? Oh, right, under Trump undocumented immigration all but evaporated. The cartels gave up trying to sell us drugs. American-made guns stopped flowing south. And immigrants took one look at Trump’s wall and said, “Ya, no puedo.” “I just can’t.” 

We had the most secure border? What we had was the most inhumane treatment of immigrants in modern history. The Biden administration is still trying to reunite hundreds of children who were ordered separated from their parents by Trump, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Trump’s de facto immigration czar, Stephen Miller. These children’s lives were destroyed and Trump, Miller and Lake couldn’t give a damn. And let’s not forget, Trump’s attempt to ban all Muslims from entering the country.

What Lake conveniently avoids when talking about immigration is the multiple push-pull factors that drive migrants from around the world to the U.S. For instance, climate change and deteriorating economic and political conditions in Central America, Cuba and Venezuela are pushing migrants to flee to the United States just to survive. And why do they come? Because we keep hiring them. And why are there so many jobs for immigrants to fill? Because U.S. population growth isn’t keeping up with our growing demand for workers.

In other words, we don’t need less immigration, we need more. But instead of coming up with an “orderly process,” they are forced to risk their lives crossing the Sonoran Desert. That’s not border security, it’s just plain cruel.

After pointing out that her husband is Latino and her mother-in-law came to the U.S. as a legal Colombian immigrant (as if that makes it okay for Lake to idolize Trump, the most anti-immigrant president in modern history), Lake quickly pivoted to a laundry list of heinous crimes that only a fraction of immigrants commit. People wouldn’t believe how many murderers, rapists and child molesters are detained every year by immigration and customs authorities, Lake told the audience.

Nevermind that if you were to randomly detain 2 million U.S. citizens traveling across the country (that’s about how many people were apprehended trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border last year) that you’d almost certainly find a higher incidence of dangerous criminals, since studies have shown that undocumented immigrants commit crimes at “substantially lower rates” than American citizens.

Lake’s alarmist messaging is designed to convey that most immigrants should be feared, not welcomed, a feat she manages to accomplish by failing to mention that the vast and overwhelming majority of immigrants, undocumented or not, come to the U.S. in search of work and a better life for their families, and not to rape, maim and kill.

Surprisingly, however, when asked about Gov. Doug Ducey’s so-called compassionate practice of busing migrants north from the Arizona-Mexico border and dumping them in Democrat-run cities, Lake said she would end the practice as governor. She even went so far as to say the practice by Ducey, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis equalled “human trafficking.” Good for Lake. Human trafficking, like separating children at the border, is wrong.

But despite labeling DeSantis a criminal — trafficking immigrants is, after all, a federal offense — Lake said she’d be more than happy to welcome National Guard troops from Florida to “stop people from coming across” the border. DeSantis, she said, has already agreed to join a multi-state effort to seal the border. 

Why lock down the border at all? Because we need to stop what Lake labels an “invasion.” Do you know who else labels it an invasion? The same people who claim Democrats have a secret plan to replace all white people in the U.S. with brown immigrants. They call it the “replacement theory.” Trump also calls it an invasion.

Do you know who else viewed it that way? The Trump supporter who slaughtered 23 people, most of them Latinos, during a mass shooting in El Paso in 2019. Also another Trump fan who shot 11 people dead in a Pittsburgh synagogue in 2018. Why? Because he thought Jewish parishioners were bringing dark-skinned immigrants to the U.S. to slaughter white people.

Let’s be clear, saying an invasion is underway and implying that immigrants are swarming across our border intent on destroying our way of life is not only irresponsible but it’s designed to incite violence in the ranks of, you got it, Lake and Trump supporters.

On abortion, Lake said she supports the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, adding it should be up to individual states to regulate abortion. Asked by Krauze if she would support the right of a 12-year-old girl who’s been raped by a relative to seek an abortion, Lake said she would, even though the abortion law recently signed by Gov. Ducey makes no exception for victims of rape or incest, and even though she has previously labeled people who seek abortions as murderers and executioners.

What she does oppose, she said, is Democrats who want to abort a fetus “up until the baby’s born and then after the baby’s born.” Lake is referring to a rare medical procedure commonly known as a “late-term abortion.” Discussions about the procedure by critics, according to the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation, “are often fraught with misinformation” from people who claim it occurs “moments before birth” or even “after birth.” In reality, according to KFF, “these scenarios do not occur, nor are they legal, in the U.S.”

Again, Lake’s goal isn’t to engage in thoughtful debate on the subject. It’s meant to characterize Hobbs’ stance on abortion as inhumane, bloodthirsty and criminal.

On education, Lake said she backs the state giving parents checks to send their children to private schools. She also pledged to raise teacher salaries — her father was a history teacher — while claiming the salaries of school administrators are too high. She also supports creating high school trade programs to prepare students for the job market. She didn’t say if she would increase public school funding.

Krauze closed his questioning by asking Lake if she will accept the results of the November election if she loses, especially given her previous claims that the 2020  election was “stolen” from Trump and that he, not Biden, should be in the White House today.

Lake didn’t answer the question directly, but said, “I’ll accept the results if it’s a fair election.” She also said she will insist on a hand count of the paper ballots because she believes, again without evidence, that electronic ballot counting machines are inaccurate. 

Trump supporters in 2020, many of whom back Lake, also claimed the electronic vote-counting machines were inaccurate, but a hand-count paid for by Trump backers after the election confirmed that Biden won the 2020 race in Arizona by a slightly larger margin than the vote-counting machines had determined.

Lake didn’t mention that either.

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