Before Democrat Katie Hobbs approached the stage, GOP candidate Kari Lake was kicked out from the Arizona town hall audience. The incident, which occurred at a forum that has not yet been broadcast, is illustrative of the two candidates’ different approaches to the competitive race for governor of Arizona. Her opponent has declined to debate.
WATCH the video:
Hobbs is the appointed secretary of state, while Lake is a former local TV anchor. An eyewitness at the town hall described the contest as being “a clash between a Trump Republican and an NPR Democrat.”
Hobbs’ team has recently stated that debates were off-limits due to Lake’s tendency for “chaos” and her endorsement of false conspiracy theories about a stolen election. Lake notes that Hobbs declined to debate Democratic primary opponents and called her a “coward” for her reluctance to share the debate stage.
Katie Hobbs, a Democrat running for governor in Arizona, has declined to engage in a debate with her rival, but Republican Kari Lake allegedly disrupted a candidate town hall by trying to force the issue.
The candidates were not intended to be onstage at the same time, and Hobbs was supposed to speak first. Before Hobbs ever reached the stage, the problem occurred: Lake was seated in the front row, directly across from where her opponent would be, reported NBC News.
In front of a crowd of over 200 people, the organizers said that Lake was required by the rules to be in a holding area; however, they would not give NBC News a copy of the guidelines. Lake objected, claiming she was not aware of that restriction and demanded that Hobbs confront her face to face. Hobbs declined. After some time, Lake complied and departed, leaving behind Mexican telenovela actor Eduardo Verástegui as her campaign surrogate.
“Kari Lake brought along a Mexican telenovela star and she brought the drama. It was like a telenovela,” said Joe Garcia, an independent voter who co-sponsored the event with the state and federal Hispanic Chambers of Commerce.
Five witnesses, including the supporters of both campaigns, confirmed Garcia’s story of what happened, and footage produced by Lake’s campaign showed the Republican arguing her point with moderator León Krauze and event producer Mary Rabago. Garcia thinks Lake’s actions were a trick intended to frighten Hobbs, which, in his opinion, looked to be successful because the Democrat delivered an uneven performance.
Garcia said: “She rattled her opponent. She was big, brash, and very larger than life, Trump-esque. Anyone who thinks she was there to follow all the rules doesn’t know Kari Lake.”
A local sheriff’s officer who was volunteering his time for the candidate, Scott Masino, told NBC News about the incident and said: “This is ridiculous. She has a police officer watching a police officer to make sure that police officer doesn’t videotape when he’s not videotaping.”
Masino claimed that a different member of the event personnel had informed them that Lake couldn’t leave her green room until she was scheduled to take the stage. Before the town hall began, Lake disregarded the request and sat down in the first row.
Garcia and another representative from his group, Max Gonzales, insisted that Lake wasn’t allowed to be in the crowd when Hobbs was speaking on stage. The town hall’s regulations were “absolutely clear.”