The midterm elections brought some good news for supporters of abortion rights, immigrants, environmental activists, and union members among other groups, with Democrats Mark Kelly and Katie Hobbs winning key races in the state.
These wins signal potential improvements in the lives of ASU students. Kelly and Hobbs will protect labor laws, ensure that abortion will not be outlawed completely in the state of Arizona, and prevent higher-education cutbacks. In contrast, Kari Lake's dispute with Arizona PBS left many students and professors worried about the future of academic freedom at the University.
Here is how these Democratic wins could impact the future of Arizona policy:
Hobbs's and Kelly's wins could definitively clarify Arizona's uncertain abortion landscape.
Both Hobbs and Kelly were backed by NARAL Pro-Choice America, Planned Parenthood and the Feminist Majority PAC. Both condemned the Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and affirmed their support for a woman's right to choose.
Following the ruling, Hobbs vowed to "veto unabashedly any further restrictions on access to reproductive health care" as governor. Now that she has assumed office, the chances of the ban being reinstated are slim.
Hobbs is an important last resort to any further attempts at banning abortion in Arizona. However, Kelly's role is much more reduced on the national level.
In order to codify the right to abortion into law, Democrats would need to overturn the filibuster, requiring 60 votes. Although Democrats control the Senate, they lack the votes. This means that the power of Kelly's singular vote won't push progressive abortion protections through the Senate. Therefore, it seems unlikely that abortion will be recognized as a constitutional right.
However, having pro-choice politicians in office indicates the possibility of a brighter, clearer future for abortion rights.
Hobbs, in many ways, will serve as a roadblock to Republicans when it comes to education policy. But, all is not lost for her education policy goals, as there are paths for action.
“The governor makes appointments to both the State Board of Education and the Arizona Board of Regents,” said Sherman Dorn, a professor at the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at ASU.
“I expect that over the next four years, Katie Hobbs will make a number of appointments to each body, and those are the direct policymaking bodies along with the legislature, so her influence will be indirect in terms of who she appoints to those boards,” Dorn said.
According to Dorn, very little is likely to happen in terms of legislation, and the primary vehicle will be the state budget, both for higher education and K-12.
As for the executive order, former Gov. Doug Ducey used it for education policy a few separate times. He issued an executive order to have all sex education curricula posted online for parents to review, along with an order that had kids return to in-person schooling.
However, Dorn is more hesitant about the possibility of Hobbs using the executive order.
“Katie Hobbs may choose to exercise her executive authority in a lot of areas; she hasn’t mentioned education," Dorn said. "The one area she has mentioned is reproductive health rights."
In terms of Kelly’s potential influence on education policy, his direct impact will likely be minimal, but his vote will be essential for other measures.
“Keeping the Senate in Democratic hands means that President Biden can continue to appoint federal judges and get them confirmed, but it also means that all the other political appointees ... will also be able to be permanently appointed officials,” Dorn said.
The opposition to Hobbs and Kelly presented an embodiment of the threat of the right wing in the U.S. toward LGBTQ people in the country and around the world. Kari Lake and Blake Masters each attacked LGBTQ people, and those attacks have weight. Anti-LGBTQ violence has increased after anti-LGBTQ rhetoric increased.
Lake and Masters were each defeated, which is certainly a win for LGBTQ people. But both Hobbs and Kelly will be operating in a relatively difficult policy environment; Hobbs will have the GOP-controlled state legislature in her way, and Kelly will have the GOP-controlled House of Representatives to deal with.
“I know that people are anticipating a continuation, if not an intensification, of anti-LGBTQ legislation being discussed, debated and perhaps even passed. So I do think that a significant role that Governor-elect Hobbs will likely play is being that defense against that kind of proposed or even passed legislation,” said Madelaine Adelman, a professor of Justice Studies at the School of Social Transformation.
However, there are still positive actions that Hobbs and Kelly can take to protect and advance LGBTQ rights.
“There’s a lot (Hobbs) can do to make things easier for LGBT people … When we think about things like access to identity documents or legal services, those are really important things that can be addressed by a state agency policy,” said Jeanne Woodbury, the interim executive director at Equality Arizona. “If we think about access to healthcare, that’s something that can be addressed outside of the legislative process."
Kelly’s election, on the other hand, provides a more clear path forward for legislation and a positive impact for LGBTQ people. His vote provides one of the 51 Senate votes the Democrats need in the Senate, and even though the Democrats no longer control the House, it is feasible to see a future where that is the reality.
He can also cast votes to get federal judges on the bench who support LGBTQ people.
“I’m anticipating that Senator Kelly will be able to represent the diverse interests that are found in our community,” Adelman said.
Hobbs’ and Kelly’s wins also represent a brief sigh of relief from union members and working people around Arizona. Hobbs had the backing of multiple Arizona labor unions, including the Arizona Education Association, which represented over 50,000 union members.
Hobbs’ prospects for passing labor legislation may be limited, especially given that the legislature is controlled by the GOP, albeit by a slim margin in both the state House and Senate. She could utilize the executive order, but wide-ranging labor legislation is unlikely during her time in office.
What she does concretely represent is a roadblock to serious anti-union legislation that may have been passed under Kari Lake, who was strongly anti-labor and picked fights, particularly with the teacher’s union.
Her presence in the governor’s office for unions and working people was needed, especially with the threat that Lake brought to the table, and unions should pressure her to use all means necessary to advance pro-union legislation.
Kelly’s win, on the other hand, likely signifies much of the same – for now. With the House of Representatives being held by Republicans, it will be hard for Kelly’s vote in the Senate to come down to much in terms of labor legislation.
Outside of legislation, Kelly’s vote will be essential for positions confirmed by Senate votes, such as judges, which certainly has an effect on labor issues. President Biden has appointed dozens of federal judges throughout his time in office, and Kelly’s vote is nearly essential for those appointments to be approved.
It is notable that Kelly had support from unions during his re-election campaign. He should be held accountable for union support, and labor leaders should pressure him to carry forward pro-union legislation when the opportunity arises, as they have before.
Hobbs’ and Kelly’s wins represent a step forward for Arizona’s immigration and border policy.
Hobbs acknowledges the complexities of the crisis at the Arizona border without adopting inflammatory rhetoric toward undocumented immigrants. As governor, Hobbs seems determined to approve comprehensive immigration reform. She expressed interest in increasing staffing at ports of entry and preventing illegal drug trafficking across the border.
Kelly shares this mindset. During his first term as Senator, he jointly introduced a measure to increase Border Patrol pay and staffing and played an important part in closing gaps along the U.S.-Mexico border. He also continues to advocate for investing in more technology and increasing the number of immigration judges to speed up case processing.
Kelly’s willingness to break rapport with the Biden administration on border security, as well as his ongoing criticism of Democrats’ understanding of border issues, may indicate that he could reach across the aisle to pass immigration legislation.
However, both Kelly and Hobbs are only looking at one side of a multi-faceted issue, neglecting other border concerns like commerce and infrastructure.
"Sen. Kelly and Gov. Hobbs need to ensure that economic development and trade (with Mexico) continues," said Irasema Coronado, the director of the School of Transborder Studies. "I would also hope that they would take a look at environmental issues at the border that deal with infrastructure. Everyone thinks the border is about immigration and drugs, and it's not. There's more to it than that."
Arizona’s water crisis makes environmental policy more crucial than ever. Kelly is backed by the League of Conservation Voters for his “strong commitment to climate action”, so he will likely continue to support climate-related legislation. Given his bipartisan track record, cosponsoring legislation like the Growing Climate Solutions Act, Kelly’s win is a tentative victory for Arizona's climate.
Similarly, Hobbs prioritized tackling climate change while running for governor. She published a plan detailing how she will modernize Arizona's water infrastructure, mitigate wildfires and build a clean economy.
Despite the party being known for its climate inaction, Republican politicians in Arizona tend to agree that water is a priority, with even Kari Lake and Blake Masters rolling out ideas for how to tackle the water crisis. This means that Hobbs could potentially convert her water policy goals into reality, given her promise of bipartisanship when she took office and her endorsement from GOP lawmakers across Arizona.
Edited by Sadie Buggle, Wyatt Myskow, Sophia Balasubramanian and Kristen Apolline Castillo.
Editor's note: The opinions presented in this column are the author's and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.
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Aaron Stigile is an opinion columnist at The State Press. He previously wrote for The Defiant Movement and is working toward a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication. He is also working toward a minor in Spanish and a certificate in Cross-Sector Leadership.