We sat down with Mayes and talked abortion rights, consumer protections, and her decision to leave the Republican Party.
As part of our efforts to help inform and empower voters as the 2022 election approaches, The Copper Courier is creating an overview of local races throughout the state, along with access to tools Arizonans need to find out how to vote, who will be on their ballot, and what they can do to participate in the upcoming election.
One position voters will find on their ballot is Arizona attorney general. The attorney general is tasked with enforcing consumer protection and civil rights laws. The office also handles appeals for statewide felony convictions and is tasked with legally representing most state agencies. The two contenders for the role are Democratic candidate Kris Mayes and Republican candidate Abe Hamadeh.
In early August, both candidates were invited to an interview with The Copper Courier so our readers could learn their platforms and positions firsthand. At the time of publication, only the Mayes campaign responded to arrange an in-person interview.
In the past, Hamadeh has expressed that he will enforce at least one of Arizona’s anti-abortion laws. He also said he would not have certified the 2020 presidential election, despite no evidence of widespread fraud.
During our one-on-one interview with Mayes, we looked to get her thoughts on her opponent, Abraham Hamadeh, her position on prosecuting abortion in Arizona, and various other issues important to Arizonans.
The following is a transcript of our conversation with Mayes.
Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
[We] are here with Kris Mayes, who is running for attorney general. Just to start off, what made you interested in getting into the race?
I really believe that American democracy runs through the state of Arizona this year. I decided to get into this race because I believe we need an attorney general who will stand up for the rule of law, protect and defend our constitution, protect our elections, and certify the future fair and free elections. I saw the Republican candidates who were running and talking in the opposite ways.
I think we just need to get back to the core mission of the attorney general’s office. I want to prosecute fraud. I want to prosecute elder abuse. I want to make sure that we are tackling our fentanyl crisis in our state. We do have a fentanyl crisis that is killing our kids and tearing our families apart.
I think we have, in Mark Brnovich, the current attorney general, someone who has done none of those things—or at least hasn’t put a focus on them.
You mentioned all the Republicans that are running. You’re a former Republican who changed parties in 2019. That coincides with when Kelli Ward became the chair of the state GOP. I’m guessing there was an inciting factor or factors before then, but do you think that coincides with “oh i see the direction the party is going in now, I should probably move away?”
Kelli Ward wasn’t specifically the reason I left the Republican party. Like many moderate Republicans in Arizona, the Arizona Republican party left me. That really started to happen a number of years ago.
I really hoped that party leadership would come back to its roots. That didn’t happen, and doesn’t look like it’s happening anytime soon. I ultimately came to the decision that I needed to become a Democrat, which is more of a big tent party right now. It aligns with my values.
I will say this: I want Republicans to vote for me. I am running to be an attorney general for all Arizonans. Whether they’re Independents or Republicans or Democrats. I don’t think your party label matters, especially for this office.
One of the things I really want to do as attorney general is to depoliticize this office. I think Mark Brnovich has deeply politicized the office in a way that was never intended by our founding fathers.
That’s really why I left the Republican party; but one-third of our state is Republican. I’m inviting them to take a look at my campaign and come with me, and we will restore this office to one that protects Arizonans—and one where we have a lawyer for the people, all the people of Arizona.
What specifically do you think that [Brnovich] is not doing? What should he be doing?
He is not prosecuting consumer fraud. One of the primary duties of the attorney general’s office is to prosecute consumer fraud. I called for Brnovich to resign because he has shifted millions of dollars away from the consumer fraud revolving fund into something that he calls the federalism unit, which is really a unit of lawyers that are designed to help him file political lawsuits and get him on Fox News.
We need to get back to the job of prosecuting consumer fraud in Arizona. On day one, I’m going to restore the millions of dollars that have been diverted away from the prosecution of consumer fraud back to that unit.
We’re going to get back to prosecuting all of these scams that target the elderly, and all Arizonans.
You’ve explicitly mentioned this, but I think it is important to reiterate that you’ve said you’ll use prosecutorial discretion to not go after doctors or anyone who is pregnant for getting an abortion. Does that include [medical] providers?
Correct. I am the only candidate for attorney general who is saying that when I’m attorney general, we will not prosecute women, doctors, pharmacists, nurses, or midwives for assisting in reproductive care, which includes abortion.
I’m saying this because Arizona’s constitution has an express right to privacy, Article 2, Section 8.
Article 2, Section 8 says no person in Arizona shall be interfered with in their home or in their private affairs. What could be more private than what a woman decides to do with her body?
I think that the vast majority of Arizonans agree with the sentiment that government has no place in this most private of realms. When I’m attorney general, we are going to uphold Article 2, Section 8 of the Arizona Constitution.
My opponent, Abe Hamadeh, said he fully intends to prosecute under this 1901 law that would imprison doctors and nurses, even pharmacists, or any person who assists with reproductive care or abortion.
That is wildly out of step with where Arizonans are on this issue. I absolutely will uphold the Arizona Constitution, which protects the right to choose. When the Supreme Court kicked this issue back to the states, it kicked it back to the Arizona Constitution, and that’s my view.
I think Arizonans are outraged that women right now are having to flee to California, Nevada, Colorado, and New Mexico for reproductive care. That is happening because we have an attorney general in Mark Brnovich who is trying to reinstate this 1901 law that would put doctors in prison. Doctors are afraid of being prosecuted under this law. We’re hearing all over the state that it’s already affecting their ability to provide care to women. That is not something Arizonans want to see happen. I think it cuts all the way across the political spectrum. I think Republicans, Democrats, and Independents believe these are private healthcare decisions that should be made between a woman, her family, and her doctor.
The Copper Courier Voter Guide: Maricopa County Attorney
To go into a hypothetical world where you win, but Rachel Mitchell wins Maricopa County Attorney, what would that mean for abortion rights at a county level?
Well, there are 15 different county attorneys. In Arizona we have a statute that gives attorney general supervisory authority over county attorneys. That’s not used very often and I don’t put it out there lightly. I think it’s something that you use only if you have to.
If there’s a county attorney anywhere in Arizona that decides they want to prosecute doctors, or nurses, or pharmacists, or women—if the legislature passes a law like that—then I would have a conversation with that county attorney and explain to them that it is my opinion as chief legal officer of Arizona that doing so, prosecuting women, is unlawful and unconstitutional.
Usually, in states that have supervisory authority, county attorneys follow the advice of the attorney general. I hope most county attorneys will come to the same conclusion I have of our constitution in Arizona. I’m willing to have those conversations and I’m willing to do whatever I have to do to protect the women of this state.
Were you surprised when your opponent referred to you as radical?
It’s pretty laughable, actually. I’ve never been called a radical before. It’s absurd. I think I’m pretty much in line with where many Arizonans find themselves, especially a lot of independent Arizonans.
I’m pragmatic, I’m solutions-oriented, and I want the government to work for the people of Arizona. When I was an Arizona Corporation Commissioner, the East Valley Tribune called our commission the best corporation commission in 50 years. That’s because we were a branch of government that got stuff done.
That’s what I think people want. They want elected officials who walk through the door every single day with one thing on their mind and that is “How can I get the people’s business done, how can I make people’s lives better and how can I act in the public interest?”
If people elected Kris Mayes to the attorney general’s office, that’s what they will get. What they will not get is someone walking into the office wondering how they can get on Fox News or MSNBC. When my opponent leveled that ridiculous accusation, I found it kind of funny.
There seems to be a rising discontent on the far-right for gay, lesbian, and trans people, especially in education. Is there anything an attorney general can do to offer protections to educators and students?
Certainly. When I’m elected, I would be the first openly gay attorney general in Arizona history. I would also be the first mom attorney general in Arizona history, and only the second woman ever elected attorney general.
The attorney general’s office in Arizona has an office of civil rights. That office is really, really important to protecting individual liberties of all Arizonans, and it’s virtually defunct right now. It’s not being utilized by the current attorney general. I will protect the rights of LGBTQ people in Arizona, including students, including trans students. I think all Arizonans deserve equal protection under the law.
I will uphold Arizona’s constitution, the US Constitution, and utilize the office of civil rights to protect Arizonans against harassment.
It is very troubling to me to see some of this legislation coming out of the legislature that is flat-out mean-spirited, if not outright discriminatory.
If you were to lose, would you concede?
Of course (laughs). I’m not like my opponent and some elements of the Trump Republican party. I respect our election system. I respect our incredible elections officials.
One of the things I have been so disturbed by is these attacks and harassment against our elections officials by elements of the Republican party, but mainly some Trump supporters. That’s just wrong.
When I’m attorney general, we will prosecute any illegal harassment or threats of violence or violence against elections officials in the state of Arizona.
Arizona has fantastically run elections. Wonderfully run elections. It should be respected. My opponent has done nothing but undermine the trust in our elections. This is a guy who has essentially called for the decertification of the 2020 election, which is illegal and there’s no mechanism for it and it obviously undermines the trust of Arizonans in our government.
He also said on television that he would not have certified the 2020 election. So yes, absolutely I will concede if I lose the election.
Who won the 2020 election?
Joe Biden won the 2020 election and unfortunately, that is something also my opponent can’t bring himself to admit.
Thank you so much for your time; If there’s anything else you’d like to add.
When I’m elected, we’re going to focus on protecting Arizonans. We recently did a press conference where we called out the state land department for this egregious lease of Arizona land and giveaway of Arizona water to a Saudi company.
The Arizona state land department is giving away Arizona’s water for free to a Saudi company while we are taking huge cuts on our Colorado River allocation. It’s outrageous, and when I’m attorney general, that’s the kind of abuse and nonsense that we’re going to speak out about and that we’re going to go after.
I called for an audit of all industrial water leases and for a cessation of all of these leases until we can find out what the heck is going on at the state land department and in the Arizona government. We can’t be just giving our water away to the Saudi Arabians.