By Daniel Stefanski |
Governor Katie Hobbs’ nominee to head up Arizona’s health services department failed to earn the support of a majority of Senate members on Tuesday.
Last week, the Arizona Senate’s bipartisan Committee on Director Nominations held its first hearing to vet the nominations of two of Governor Katie Hobbs’ appointments to lead state agencies. One, Angie Rodgers, who was nominated to lead the Department of Economic Security, received unanimous support from all five committee members (three Republicans and two Democrats). The other, Dr. Theresa Cullen, who was nominated to run the Department of Health Services (DHS), received an unfavorable recommendation after lawmakers had ample time to review her record and statements.
This week, the full Arizona Senate took up the nominations and rejected the governor’s choice to lead DHS. This was not any ordinary vote, however. Senate Democrats – and Governor Hobbs – claimed that the nomination was withdrawn, and the vote was moot. President Warren Petersen informed Senators that he had not received the withdrawal notice, and so the vote proceeded as scheduled. AZ Free News was told that the Governor attempted to withdraw her nomination of Dr. Cullen, but nothing was received by the Senate’s Secretary.
The Senate’s course was expected after the committee hearing, in which Petersen served up a warning following perceived inconsistencies in Dr. Cullen’s answers, tweeting, “Any nominee who gets caught lying at a confirmation hearing is not fit to serve the state of Arizona.”
In an exclusive interview with AZ Free News, Senator Jake Hoffman, the chairman of the Director Nominations Committee, had the following to say after the floor action and the governor’s attempt to frame Dr. Cullen’s defeat as a Republican-forced withdrawal:
“Personnel is policy, and Katie Hobbs demonstrated with the nomination of Theresa Cullen that her policy agenda is an extreme, authoritarian one that will have no problems infringing the civil liberties of the people of Arizona. Cullen’s record is one of lockdowns, curfews, school closures, forced vaccinations, shaming Pima County citizens, and lying during her confirmation hearing. The people of Arizona deserve better.”
After the Senate’s vote, the Senate Republican Caucus released statements from its leadership team, reacting to the latest development with Governor Hobbs’ problematic nomination. Senate President Petersen said, “We now hope that the Governor takes a more pragmatic approach to this process and appoints individuals in the mainstream, without a political agenda, and who are ready to answer questions from the public.”
Senate President Pro Tempore T.J. Shope stated, “We heard some pretty damning testimony in last week’s committee hearing that was only made worse with lies from Dr. Cullen. Presenting us with this kind of nominee only highlights a failure from the Hobbs administration.”
Senate Majority Whip Sine Kerr responded, “If only Governor Hobbs would have taken the time to conduct the same thorough vetting process as my colleagues and I did at the Senate, we would not be here today, voting on – and ultimately rejecting – a nominee who clearly is not an appropriate fit for this position.”
Governor Hobbs, on the other hand, was furious about the Senate’s action in rejecting her nominee for DHS, writing, “As long as Republicans choose politics over the people of Arizona, some of the most talented and qualified candidates will choose not to enter state service, and it is the people of Arizona who will suffer most because of these political games.” She characterized the behavior of “some Republicans on the State Senate’s committee on director nominations” as “nothing short of harassment,” and she bemoaned the rejection of a nominee with a “mountain of expertise and an immense track record of public health success.”
The Arizona Senate Democratic Caucus claimed in a tweet that Hobbs’ letter was “hand delivered and sent via email to ensure (the Republicans’) symbolic nonsense vote wasn’t necessary.
According to Arizona Senate sources, Governor Hobbs has now transmitted nine total nominations to the legislature, including the failed nomination of Dr. Cullen. The governor is expected to name a replacement nominee for Dr. Cullen, though she blasted Senate Republicans for her current dilemma: “If the Senate’s Director Nominations Committee is unwilling to acknowledge the skill and expertise of Dr. Cullen, there may be no public health professional in the State they would endorse.”
Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.