By Rachel Leingang, Hank Stephenson | Arizona Agenda
Around the time she was meeting with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and new Sonora Gov. Alfonso Durazo on Friday, Gov. Katie Hobbs cleaned house at the Arizona-Mexico Commission, firing the entire 26-member board of directors.
The commission facilitates commerce and strengthens political ties between Arizona and Mexico through meetings with political and business leaders, committees focused on different aspects of binational trade and research designed to influence policy in the two nations. It’s something of a government-sponsored chamber of commerce for international trade with Mexico, and its board members serve at the pleasure of the governor.
Its board was stacked with movers and shakers from the border and business regions, all of whom got a five-sentence letter Friday afternoon announcing their services were no longer needed since Hobbs would be appointing all new commissioners, though they were free to reapply. By Monday, they had all been scrubbed from the commission’s website, which now features just a photo of Hobbs.
The Friday firings sent shockwaves through the business community or, at least those closely aligned with former Gov. Doug Ducey — the same folks who were still reeling from Hobbs’ abrupt announcement last week that she had canceled many of the last-minute contracts that Ducey gave them.
Improving relations with Mexico was one of Ducey’s earliest and most urgent priorities. The Arizona-Mexico Commission was one of his strongest tools in helping boost Arizona’s image among Mexicans following SB1070 and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s racial profiling cases. Many of the now-former members are pragmatic people from the business community who dabble in politics or vice versa.
While cleaning house at various agencies may be standard for a new administration, it hasn’t been at the commission. A few of the fired members of the commission had been there for decades, dating back to former Gov. Janet Napolitano.
Still, it was largely a Ducey-centric commission. Ducey’s former Chief of Staff Kirk Adams was on the commission, as was Jessica Pacheco, a former APS lobbyist; Jonathan Lines, former AZGOP chair and Russ Jones, former chair of the Yuma County Republican Party.
Hobbs certainly has the prerogative to stack the commission with her own allies, to start fresh with people she feels can best carry out her vision of the commission. Positions on the commission are highly coveted gigs that help the consultant class get richer through connections and business opportunities. The new governor can use those positions to fulfill political debts from the campaign or rack up goodwill among those who may be in a position to help or hurt her agenda.