PHOENIX — Both candidates vying to be Arizona's next governor were in the same room Wednesday night taking questions, and it could be the only time they will be in the same room before November's election.
Democratic candidate Katie Hobbs and Republican nominee Kari Lake spoke about their policies at the Arizona Chamber's Gubernatorial Forum. However, the two didn't share the stage at the same time, and the currently scheduled October debate is currently up in the air.
The questions for Wednesday's forum were submitted by Arizona Chamber members.
Both candidates were asked about a range of topics from their first priorities, economic development, taxes, education, water, energy and more.
Current Secretary of State Hobbs took the stage first, reaffirming the priorities she said she's heard from Arizonans while on the campaign trail.
"Affordability, the state’s water crisis, fixing our education system and we have plans on all those things. And those plans are going to help us get to work on day one.”
When pressed on taxes, Hobbs said, 'it isn't on the table'. On education funding, Hobbs was questioned on her own attendance of a private, Catholic high school and her stance on Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs) - school vouchers.
Hobbs said funding public schools would provide the best quality education for Arizona students.
"The current scheme of vouchers does not provide equal access," Hobbs said.
As for Arizona's water future, Hobbs said while the $1 billion investment made by current Republican Governor Doug Ducey was a start, it's not enough; adding, the plan relies too much on desalination. Hobbs said her plan would work on more partnerships with other basin states.
Near the end of her 20 minutes of questions, Hobbs responded to a question about what she's saying to people who voted for her opponents in the primary, saying the issues facing Arizona aren't partisan.
"This election is not about Democrats or Republicans, this election is about sanity versus chaos," Hobbs said.
Hobbs immediately exited the building following stepping down from the stage, and did not take reporter questions.
Lake, a former TV news anchor, said on the same stage that it was questions that she wanted.
"I've been waiting for a debate," Lake said before taking the first question at the forum.
Hours before last week's debate deadline, Hobbs' campaign requested a change to a town hall-style format.
Hobbs' campaign said in a letter to the Arizona Clean Elections Commission that the Republican primary debate was filled with constant interruptions and distractions and she doesn't want to be a part of that.
On Wednesday, Hobbs told Chuck Todd on 'Meet the Press Now' she would agree to a substantive debate.
Lake's campaign responded in a letter saying she wouldn't participate in the town hall-style Hobbs suggested, calling for the commission to reject it too.
"I'm absolutely ready, willing and able to debate Hobbs any day of the week. But I'm not going to do a forum, which isn’t even a forum," Lake said to reporters after Wednesday's forum.
Hobbs' request will be reviewed Thursday morning at a special meeting of the Arizona Clean Elections Commission.
While on stage, Lake said she'd cut taxes each year and wants to expand ESAs, adding her top priority, if elected, would be the border.
"In that first hour after I take my hand off the bible the oath of office and we’re going to issue a declaration of invasion and stop the fentanyl from pouring across," Lake said.
On the homelessness crisis, Lake said she wants to end "urban camping in a compassionate way" to address the quality of life for Arizonans.
On water issues, Lake said she'd work to bring in new water solutions in the form of desalination in the state as well as bring in water from the Missouri River Basin and Mississippi River Basin.
In regards to business regulations, Lake said she'd fight back against federal government regulations, citing the Supreme Court case, West Virginia vs. Environmental Protection Agency, which limits the agency's regulatory powers.
"It cracked open the door for us to push back against regulations that are strangling our businesses and I'm happy to kick that door open a little bit more after that case set precedence," Lake said.
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