Katie Hobbs’s Race Problem

By Alexander Lomax

Talonya Adams. Photo Credit: Arizona Daily Star

In what is looking to be a tough election year for Democrats nationally, Katie Hobbs’s path to the 9th floor was already a fairly narrow one. Now a problem from the past has re-emerged and has made that narrow path a more treacherous one.

Those who follow local politics closely may remember the story of Talonya Adams, a former AZ Senate Dems staffer who complained that she was making considerably less than her white male colleagues in the same role, and was fired as a result. Adams represented herself in a resulting lawsuit, and a federal judge awarded her $350,000 and her job back as part of the ruling. Hobbs was Senate Minority Leader at the time, making her Adams’s boss.

Hobbs certainly had hoped that this unfortunate incident was in her past, but she was wrong. Last week a jury awarded Adams $2.75 million for both discrimination and retaliation, amplifying the blemish on her record nearly a year before the election.

In the aftermath of massive Black Lives Matter protests and ongoing outcries for gender and racial pay equity, such an action would typically be seen as pure toxicity for a Democratic candidate, perhaps even disqualifying. So how will it impact her?

Thankfully, Hobbs has the luxury of currently being head-and-shoulders above her current primary challengers, Marco Lopez and Aaron Lieberman. Polling this fall showed her with a 30 point margin over Lopez, and considering that her opponents have thus far shown lifeless campaigns, it is hard to see this being a catalyst for her to lose the primary.

But in order to win in the general election, she’ll need every vote that she can get. And while blacks are a relatively small percentage of the Arizona populace, they are regular and faithful Democratic voters. It would be difficult to see them choosing to vote for Kari Lake, but they may choose to skip that spot on their ballot as a result of this. And who could blame them? Considering that many of them have likely experienced structural racism themselves, it is a tough ask to have them vote for someone who participated in that inequity firsthand, at least in the eyes of both a judge and jury.

As someone who was intelligent enough to represent herself and win two court cases against powerful entities, Adams must have been a very valuable asset to the Senate Dems. That extra $20,000 or so she was asking for would have likely been a bargain, and now it may prove to be very, very expensive for her former boss.