By Daniel Stefanski |
Democrat Governor Katie Hobbs is attempting to showcase her policy initiatives in the first 100 days of her fledgling administration, but her efforts are quickly being overwhelmed by her veto threats and lack of transparency surrounding her nominees to lead state agencies.
This week, the Arizona Senate’s Committee on Director Nominations held its second meeting since President Warren Petersen commissioned the panel to vet and provide recommendations to the full chamber. According to Senate sources, the governor’s office has only transmitted eleven of her nominees to the Legislature and continues to withhold a number of individuals from the required constitutional consideration at the present time. Earlier this month, the Director Nominations Committee took up the nominations of two of Hobbs’ appointees, recommending Angie Rodgers for the Department of Economic Security, and disapproving of Dr. Theresa Cullen for the Department of Health Services. The Senate later rejected Dr. Cullen’s nomination after an extensive vetting process.
The second meeting featured two more of the governor’s nominees – this time for the Department of Transportation (ADOT) and the Department of Administration (ADOA). On January 6, during Governor Hobbs’ first week in office, she announced Jennifer Toth and Elizabeth Alvarado-Thorson to lead ADOT and ADOA, respectively. Hobbs introduced these nominees in a press release, saying, “The expertise represented in this group makes me excited about the bright future we will be able to build together.”
Jennifer Toth was previously the Director for the Maricopa County Department of Transportation, and she also served as the State Engineer and Deputy Director of ADOT. After facing questions from lawmakers on the committee, she earned a favorable recommendation with a 5-0 vote.
The Governor’s Office was very pleased with this progress and issued a statement following the hearing, stating, “Jennifer Toth’s nomination to lead the @ArizonaDOT is moving forward to a full vote in the Senate. She is the perfect person to help lead Arizona toward becoming one of the most reliable transportation systems in the nation.”
Much like the first hearing, though, the second nominee of the day brought the greatest controversy and an unfavorable result for the Ninth Floor. Alvarado-Thorson, the Deputy Director of ADOA since 2018, was accused by lawmakers of evading their questions and displaying a lack of knowledge about- Hobbs’ agenda for ADOA. President Petersen was clearly tuning in to the hearing, releasing the following statement after the questions and (non)-answers were complete: “Looks like the new tactic of the 9th floor is to tell their nominees to evade or not answer questions. Glad the committee made it clear that no one will advance who does not directly answer questions. Citizens deserve direct and honest answers.”
The lack of advancement that President Petersen was referring to was Chairman Jake Hoffman’s decision at the end of the meeting to hold Alvarado-Thorson’s nomination from an official recommendation. When addressing his decision, Senator Hoffman told AZ Free News, “Katie Hobbs’ nominees should not expect to disrespect the confirmation process by dodging legitimate questions and still gain the approval of the committee. Hobbs needs to appoint nominees who will give honest and truthful answers during their confirmation hearing, instead of playing political games.”
In a release sent a day after the hearing’s conclusion, Senator Hoffman listed the issues uncovered from the questioning of Alvarado-Thorson, including that Alvarado-Thorson “does not know what the Hobbs Administration’s vision is for ADOA,” that she “was not included in the conversations about the decision to block $210 million in federal COVID grants authorized by former Governor Doug Ducey,” and that during her gubernatorial campaign, Hobbs had “made it abundantly clear that she wanted specific pro-abortion directors to oversee the Department of Administration.”
On Tuesday, Toth was confirmed by the Arizona Senate by voice vote, making her the first Hobbs’ nominee to cross the finish line of a transparent constitutional process spearheaded by President Warren Petersen and Chairman Jake Hoffman.
Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.