Arizona State Rep. Teresa Martinez (R-Maricopa) is calling for Democratic Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs to drop out of the governor’s race due to firing a staffer while at the Arizona Legislature. Talonya Adams won a multimillion dollar jury verdict against the legislature for racial discrimination by Hobbs, her former boss, last week, the second lawsuit she’s won in the case. A jury found that Adams was fired in 2015 because she complained that her relatively lower pay was the result of racial and sex discrimination.
Martinez told The Arizona Sun Times, “I think it’s horrible that we have an elected state official who would have such behavior toward any race. I think anyone running for statewide office should look at people based on the content of their character, not the color of their skin. For this woman to win two lawsuits where two courts found her showing racism — she should not be considered for any post in the state of Arizona, including the one she has now.”
Martinez continued, “I think she should take this time to do some deep soul searching and get to know not only the African-American community but also the Hispanic and Native American communities. It’s hard to hate up close. If you’re going to represent the state of Arizona that means you have to represent every person — not just your friends, the people you feel good about.”
Adams had some harsh words for Hobbs’ relations with minorities. “I think she’s always been very uncomfortable with minorities,” Adams said to 12 News. “She seems wholly disconnected from people of color.” She went on, “I don’t need her to be my ally. I need her not to discriminate against black people.”
Adams expressed concern about Hobbs in her current position as secretary of state. “When it comes to women and women of color in particular, there is an issue there as it relates to Katie Hobbs… To the extent that she believes discrimination does not exist or that she’s not able to see it, I have grave concerns in the role that she currently sits.”
Adams also said she doesn’t believe Hobbs should run for governor. She told The Arizona Mirror, “I do not believe she’s fit to serve.” She also said, “I really think she has no regard for people of color. She has no curiosity about them. She remains woefully uneducated about diversity, about inclusion, about racial discrimination, about sex discrimination.”
Hobbs admitted in court that her decision to fire Adams was made based in part on Adams talking about her pay situation in email discussions. Adams said she sought discussion after a newspaper article came out indicating it was low. Several Democratic lawmakers who worked with Adams testified that they had no complaints about her work.
Adams worked for then-Senate Minority Leader Hobbs and current Chief of Staff Jeff Winkler. She testified that Wendy Baldo, chief of staff for the majority Senate Republicans, fired her over the phone. Baldo testified that the decision was made by Hobbs — which contradicts a statement Hobbs made after the verdict saying Baldo made the decision.
After Adams was fired, a white male replaced her at $40,000 more than her salary of $60,000. What was unusual about the case is Adams represented herself in the lawsuit, going up against the Arizona Legislature’s high-powered attorneys.
Adams is wondering why Democrats don’t call out Hobbs for racial discrimination. When The Arizona Republic’s columnist Elva Diaz asked that question in an article, Adams retweeted her, saying, “These are my questions too…”
A handful of Democrats are speaking up. A few black leaders, including the Rev. Dr. Warren H. Stewart Sr., Arizona Corporation Commissioner Sandra Kennedy and Charles Fanniel, president of the NAACP of Arizona, urged people, “especially people of color, (to) reconsider any support for Katie Hobbs.”
Cloves Campbell, a former state representative and publisher of the Arizona Informant, the only black-owned weekly newspaper in the state, told The Arizona Republic, “We’re going to do everything we can to make sure Katie Hobbs is not successful.”
Aaron Lieberman, a former state legislator who is also running for governor, said in a statement, “We need to have an open and honest discussion about what happened, who is accountable, and if we, as Democrats, are prepared to support a nominee for governor who behaved in this manner just a few short years ago. This type of discrimination is abhorrent to all Arizonans, regardless of party. As Democrats, it should be unacceptable from someone who wants to serve as our nominee for Governor.”
Christian Lamar, a black man running as a Republican for state representative in Phoenix, was appalled by Hobbs’ behavior. He told The Times, “I’ve been an IT manager of two teams totaling 18 people and a director of 300 auto care providers. I have never shorted anyone of pay or PTO; always fought for my workers, gave the best possible review for HR and great pay compensation. Katie Hobbs is drunk on power.”
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