Arizona’s 2022 governor race is shaping up to be one of the most competitive and closely watched gubernatorial elections in the country. With incumbent Republican Governor Doug Ducey term-limited, both parties see an open seat as a prime opportunity to flip the governor’s office.
The high-profile race features former news anchor Kari Lake running as the Republican nominee against Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs on the Democratic ticket. Arizona is a traditionally red state that has shown signs of trending purple in recent elections, setting the stage for a tight race.
This article will provide an in-depth, non-partisan look at the key issues, candidates, voter demographics, campaign strategies, polls, endorsements, fundraising, predictions, and potential impacts for Arizona and the country. With control of the critical battleground state up for grabs, the governor’s race will help shape the direction Arizona takes over the next four years on topics like the economy, immigration, abortion, and elections.
Republican Nominee Kari Lake
Kari Lake is a former television news anchor who spent over two decades with Fox 10 in Phoenix before resigning in 2021 to run for governor. The political newcomer secured Donald Trump’s endorsement early on and has closely aligned herself with the former president and his America First platform.
- Staunch supporter of Trump’s false claims of 2020 election fraud
- Strongly opposes abortion with no exceptions for rape or incest
- Wants to remove regulations and restrictions on businesses
- Supports school voucher programs
- Favors cutting income and property taxes
- Pledges to finish and expand border wall construction
Path to Nomination
Lake came from behind as an underdog to win the 5-way Republican primary. Her vocal support of Trump’s debunked claims about the 2020 election being “stolen” energized his loyal base. She also leveraged her TV credentials for high name recognition and fundraising advantages.
Lake effectively attacked her GOP opponents as being weak on border security and election integrity issues. This cleared the field for her to consolidate the pro-Trump wing and emerge victorious by nearly 5%.
General Election Strategy
Lake is sticking to her ultra-conservative populist playbook for the general election. She continues touting Trump’s endorsement at every turn and warning of a supposedly rigged election system.
Her campaign is focused on turning out the GOP base by hammering hot-button issues like illegal immigration and demonizing Democrats as radical socialists. Lake is also aggressively attacking the media to avoid scrutiny of her positions.
Democratic Nominee Katie Hobbs
Katie Hobbs has served as Arizona’s Secretary of State since 2019. She previously held a seat in the state legislature. As Secretary of State, Hobbs vocally opposed the Republican-led audit of 2020 presidential ballots in Maricopa County.
- Supports abortion rights and reinstating Roe v. Wade
- Favors pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants
- Advocates expanding Medicaid and reproductive healthcare access
- Vocal defender of mail-in voting and elections integrity
- Pledged to invest in education and infrastructure
Path to Nomination
Hobbs took a low-profile approach focused on securing key endorsements, not soundbites. This helped clear the Democratic field early on. Hobbs won the primary comfortably with over 60% of the vote against a lightly funded opponent.
Her background overseeing Arizona’s elections proved popular with primary voters. Hobbs highlighted her defense of democracy and promised steady, pragmatic leadership.
General Election Strategy
For the general election, Hobbs is positioning herself as the serious, mainstream choice compared to Lake’s extremism. She is campaigning on “sanity over chaos” and portraying her opponent as dangerously conspiratorial.
However, Hobbs faces criticism for limiting public appearances and press access. Her strategy relies on turning out Democrats by underscoring the high stakes of the race for abortion rights and free elections.
Early polls indicated a tight contest between Lake and Hobbs within the margin of error. Lake led by low single digits coming out of the primary thanks to consolidated GOP support.
However, more recent surveys show Hobbs with a slim advantage as swing voters get familiar with Lake’s staunch Trump platform. Hobbs is polling slightly ahead by 2-3 points on average as of late October.
With high polarization, there are few true undecided voters. The race will come down to turnout for both bases, along with persuading the roughly 10% of independents in Arizona.
Lake needs to retain suburban voters who are uncomfortable with the Democratic agenda. Meanwhile, Hobbs must cut into Lake’s support among rural white voters. The winning campaign will succeed in framing the race as a referendum on their opponent.
Key Voter Demographics
Arizona’s political makeup has shifted dramatically in recent decades from a GOP stronghold to an increasingly diverse swing state. Understanding the evolving voter coalitions helps explain how the governor’s race will be decided.
- Suburban Women – College-educated suburban women, especially in fast-growing Maricopa County, are a coveted swing demographic. They were key for Democrats in 2018 and 2020. But inflation could dampen support in 2022.
- Latinos – Hispanics make up over 30% of Arizona’s population. While more register as independents, they lean Democratic by around 2-to-1. Turnout from this group will be crucial for Hobbs.
- White Working Class – Republicans do well with white voters without college degrees. They still comprise over half of the state’s eligible voters and lean strongly towards Lake.
- Native Americans – Arizona has one of the largest indigenous populations in the US. They are an important Democratic-leaning bloc, especially in rural areas.
- Mormons – While a smaller group, Mormons have high turnout. They used to lean strongly GOP but have shifted somewhat towards Democrats in the Trump era.
Both Lake and Hobbs have proven to be prolific fundraisers with national donor networks. As of early October, they had raised comparable large war chests according to filings:
- Kari Lake – $12+ million
- Katie Hobbs – $10+ million
Lake has the slight edge in fundraising thanks to deep ties with the MAGA grassroots donor network cultivated during Trump’s presidency. Nearly two-thirds of Lake’s donations have come from outside Arizona.
Meanwhile, Hobbs benefits from the strong Democratic fundraising infrastructure. She has received support from groups like EMILY’s List that back pro-choice women candidates.
With ample resources and outside spending on the way, neither campaign will be able to decisively outspend their opponent on advertising and get-out-the-vote efforts. The field will remain level in terms of campaign funds.
Notable Candidate Endorsements
The governor’s race has unsurprisingly split along partisan lines when it comes to endorsements from prominent politicians and organizations.
Kari Lake Endorsements
- Former President Donald Trump
- Republican Governor’s Association
- Arizona State Treasurer Kimberly Yee
- National Border Patrol Council
- Over 100 Arizona state legislators
Katie Hobbs Endorsements
- President Joe Biden
- Vice President Kamala Harris
- Arizona Democratic Party
- Emily’s List
- National Education Association
- Planned Parenthood
- U.S. Senator Mark Kelly
The backing of Trump is Lake’s most touted endorsement for mobilizing the GOP base. Meanwhile, Hobbs is highlighting support from Biden and Kelly to attract Democratic voters.
Endorsements signal party loyalty and energize supporters. But it remains to be seen how much they sway undecided voters who will determine the election.
Key Issues Impacting the Race
Like campaigns across the country, Lake and Hobbs are showcasing dramatically different visions on the critical issues facing Arizonans. Their stances help explain the ideological divides underlying this polarized race.
Economy and Inflation
Lake: Blames Democratic spending and regulation. Pledges to cut taxes, reduce government oversight, and boost domestic energy production.
Hobbs: Criticizes corporate price gouging. Promises targeted tax relief for the middle class along with investing in infrastructure, education, and renewable energy to spur growth.
Lake: Staunchly anti-abortion even in cases of rape, incest, or health risks. Supports total ban enacted in AZ following Supreme Court ruling.
Hobbs: Strongly supports abortion rights. Wants to repeal Arizona’s ban, codify Roe protections, and expand reproductive healthcare access.
Lake: Hardliner who vows to expand border wall and give National Guard arrest authority. Pledges to bus migrants to sanctuary cities and finish Trump’s border policies.
Hobbs: Supports pathway to citizenship for law-abiding undocumented immigrants already in US. Criticizes bipartisan lack of progress on comprehensive reform.
Lake: Echoes Trump’s false claims of 2020 voter fraud. Wants to overhaul election administration by eliminating mail-in voting, ballot drop boxes, and Dominion machines.
Hobbs: As Secretary of State, defended Arizona’s 2020 election results and security processes against GOP audit efforts. Wants to preserve mail-in voting.
Predictions and Projections for Race
The Lake-Hobbs matchup is rated a Tossup by most election analysts, underscoring just how close it is expected to be. Republicans have held the governor’s office in Arizona since 2009, but Democrats see conditions in their favor this year. Here are the factors shaping projections:
Factors Favoring Lake:
- Midterm environment historically unfavorable for party in White House
- Biden’s low approval ratings drag down Democrats
- Concerns over inflation, gas prices, border security
- Higher Republican voter enthusiasm
Factors Favoring Hobbs:
- Backlash over Supreme Court eliminating federal abortion rights
- Lake’s extremism on 2020 election fraud alienates some moderates
- Changing demographics benefitting Democrats
- Strong grassroots organization for Hobbs
Most experts believe Lake and Hobbs start off evenly matched in their respective partisan strongholds. The race will be determined based on swaying Arizona’s narrow swath of persuadable swing voters.
Arizona is undergoing rapid demographic change, but Lake’s populism has strong appeal. A slight lean towards Republicans in midterms makes Lake an extremely narrow favorite. But Hobbs could pull off an upset with high turnout from an energized Democratic base.
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Impacts on Arizona and U.S. Politics
The governor’s race will have significant consequences for policy and elections not just in Arizona, but nationally as a presidential battleground state. Here are some potential impacts:
- Abortion Laws – The winner could shape abortion access for women in Arizona depending on if they sign new bans or repeal existing ones. This could motivate voter backlash in 2024.
- Election Oversight – Arizona’s governor appoints the Secretary of State who oversees elections. Lake would likely install someone who shares her false views on 2020 voter fraud.
- Voting Access – The governor can affect registration, mail-in voting, drop boxes, and other election policies. These ground rules impact partisan turnout and results.
- Redistricting – Whichever party controls the governor’s office will have advantage in drawing favorable political maps that last a decade, affecting control of Congress.
- 2024 Bellwether – The Arizona governor’s race outcome will be seen as an early indicator of Trump’s prospects as he seeks comeback in the state for 2024.
The stakes are high for both parties. Losing such a prominent swing state governorship would be demoralizing ahead of the next presidential election. The winner in Arizona will shape critical voting laws and gain an upper hand in driving turnout for 2024.
Does Arizona typically vote Republican or Democrat?
Arizona has historically leaned Republican but has become much more competitive for Democrats in recent elections. Joe Biden became the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry Arizona since 1996. The state now has a Democratic senator and a narrow Republican edge for statewide offices.
How important is voter turnout in deciding Arizona’s governor race?
Turnout is extremely critical, especially among niche groups like suburban women, Latinos, and Native Americans who favor Democrats. Republicans have typically had an advantage in midterms. Whichever campaign does better in driving turnout within their base while winning over swing voters is likely to prevail.
Can Democrats flip the Arizona governorship after decades of Republican control?
It’s a very close race, but Democrats see their best chance to flip Arizona’s governorship in years with an open seat and a uniquely controversial GOP nominee. Changing demographics and backlash against conservatives improves their odds. But it will require high Democratic enthusiasm to overcome the state’s slight GOP lean.
Does Kari Lake have a clear pathway to defeating Katie Hobbs?
Lake has a plausible path if she runs up big margins beyond her GOP base in rural, predominantly white parts of the state. Maximizing turnout among voters receptive to her stolen election claims is key. She needs to avoid lost ground with suburban women and independents alienated by her rhetoric.
What impact would a Lake victory have on the 2024 presidential election?
It would be a major boost to Trump if Lake wins by energizing the MAGA Republican base with her staunch support of his agenda. Her role overseeing elections also heightens risks of interference in 2024 voting results. But Lake’s far-right positions could equally risk alienating swing voters and costing the GOP Arizona’s 11 electoral votes.
Final Takeaways on Arizona’s Governor Race
Arizona’s 2022 gubernatorial election is shaping up as a marquee matchup between entrenched partisans reflective of the national political mood. Democrats see ripe conditions to break GOP control of a critical battleground state. But Republicans retain advantages heading into midterm referendums on incumbent presidents.
The race will come down to which nominee can best leverage national dynamics and key issues as turnout motivators in Arizona. Lake is riding a wave of enthusiasm among the Trump faithful, while Hobbs aims to drive high Democrat participation. With just a small share of undecided voters, the winning campaign machine will be the one that leaves fewer supporters staying home.
The next governor stands to shape Arizona’s partisan trajectory for years to come based on their oversight of voting laws and redistricting heading into the 2024 election. The race outcome will also offer meaningful clues into whether Trump-inspired populism still has the upper hand in a rapidly changing Sun Belt state. We will learn on November 8 whether Arizona is now firmly a swing state in the post-Trump era or if the Republican Party maintains its grip.