The Delicate Dance Continues: GOP Learning How to Work with Gov. Hobbs

Governor Katie Hobbs has had a relatively tumultuous short reign in the 9th floor; facing GOP majorities in both the state House and the state Senate, her powers have largely been limited to her veto pen, which she has used to an unprecedented degree so far. Recently there have been issues within her own caucus, i.e. “tamale-gate” (you can read about that here).

This delicate dance of trying to please all sides just enough to be effective is now entering a significantly higher stakes phase now: the annual budget. It will very likely be filled with priorities for the GOP, but unlike standard bills Hobbs cannot simply continue to veto and go on with her day; a stalemate in perhaps the most important job of the legislature will very likely be blamed on Hobbs if that is the case, and would make negative attention from individual vetoes look like child’s play in comparison.

And now comes the dance that has been performed many times before, but typically with a Governor of the same party. It’s not uncommon for a Governor to threaten a veto of the budget if they don’t get some of their pet projects passed through the legislature. But typically those pet projects come from the same team. There may be quibbles, but everyone is working towards a common goal with mostly common friends. Not this time.

Typically Hobbs could count on whatever backing was desired from the Democrats at the Capitol, and that might still largely be the case. But the aforementioned “tamale”gate” veto very likely ruffled some feathers; almost certainly not a deal-killer for support but an unfortunate miss early on. While the GOP will by nature be in opposition, it’s not an election year, so Governor Hobbs has that going for her. There will be less immediate need to attempt to paint Democrats as obstructionists.

Perhaps one of the most interesting yet unspoken of subcontexts is the potential alignment of the Hispanic Democratic caucus, more specifically “the Z’s”, named as such by the regularity of having the letter Z in their last name (more so last session, but still rings generally true). This was a group that last cycle was known for voting with the Republicans on numerous bills to the dismay of the more progressive members of the caucus. With Governor Hobbs committing that tamale-related unforced error, it is not out of the realm of possibility that what is left of “the Z’s” start cutting deals with Republican members of the legislature.

This is the biggest hurdle of the first year of Governor Hobbs’s term. Subsequent versions will likely be more streamlined, as the learning curve is still steep and fluid. But what happens this time around will likely give some interesting insight as to alliances that may last and grudge matches that may persist.