Arizona Republicans seek punishment for top Democrat who criticized their election audit

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The new bill would ban Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs from defending herself against election lawsuits.

Republicans in the Arizona state Legislature on Tuesday retaliated against Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, advancing a bill that would block her from defending herself against election lawsuits.

Rather than allowing Hobbs to defend lawsuits filed against her office, the bill would put Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich in charge. The change expires on Jan. 2, 2023 — when Hobbs' current term expires — making clear the change is aimed at Hobbs.

The move comes after Hobbs has slammed the disastrous audit that state Senate Republicans forced in an attempt to prove their baseless allegations of voter fraud.

The audit is being run by a group led by a Donald Trump-supporting conspiracy theorist who was part of the failed effort to steal the election for Trump.

Election experts have said the audit procedures are a mess, and even some GOP officials in the state have called the recount of some 2.1 million ballots an embarrassing debacle that makes Republicans look like "idiots." The Department of Justice said the entire audit may be in violation of federal election law.

Hobbs has called the audit a "political stunt," and accused auditors of compromising election equipment so badly that she said the state needs to purchase new machines.

"The fact that the legislature has singled me and my office for these unjustifiable restrictions — restrictions which expire at the end of my term — make it clear what this is really about: partisan politics," Hobbs said in a statement of the legislation. "The most extreme members of our legislature think they can stop me from doing my job and working on behalf of Arizona voters. I'll keep proving them wrong."

What's more, Hobbs filed an ethics complaint against Brnovich, accusing him of violating ethics rules in his efforts to defend some of the election lawsuits filed against Hobbs.

"In several election lawsuits, the AG's Office has represented the SOS, received confidential attorney-client communications, provided advice, filed papers on behalf of the SOS, and then withdrawn from representation and appeared in the same litigation on behalf of a different party asserting a position materially adverse to the SOS," the complaint reads, according to a copy obtained by the Arizona Mirror.

In a statement after filing the ethics complaint, Hobbs wrote of Brnovich, "He frequently sought to substitute his judgment for my own and allowed his political preferences to interfere with this obligation to represent me as a client, in my pursuit of the best interests of Arizona voters."

She added, "Unfortunately, it appears AG Brnovich isn't asking forgiveness for his behavior — he's asking our legislature to authorize it, adding that "despite partisan attacks and political power grabs, I'll continue to get the job done on behalf of all Arizona voters."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.