Kris Mayes: Democrat with rural roots wants to be Arizona's next attorney general

·6 min read

While a crowded Republican field vies for the nomination, Kris Mayes said she watches "in horror" as those candidates, in her opinion, tear at the very core of a free and democratic society.

A former member of the Arizona Corporation Commission from 2003-2010, Mayes is the presumptive Democratic nominee for attorney general.  An Arizonan native, she was born and raised in Prescott and Yavapai County. Her rural roots have shaped her policies and world view.

Mayes got her start in public life while in law school, when Janet Napolitano, who was attorney general at the time, picked her as her press secretary for her first campaign for governor. After Napolitano was elected, she appointed Mayes to the Arizona Corporation Commission.

On the commission, Mayes co-wrote Arizona's first renewable energy standard, which she says has saved the state 23 billion gallons of water and required utility companies to generate 15% of their energy from renewable resources.

Prior to that, Mayes was a reporter at the now-closed Phoenix Gazette and later The Arizona Republic. She has a master's degree from Columbia University and attended Arizona State University for her undergraduate and law studies.

Mayes has been on the faculty of ASU since 2010, where she works as a senior scientist at the Global School of Sustainability and teaches a course on energy law at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law.

If elected, Mayes would be Arizona's first attorney general who also is a mom and only the second female attorney general in state history, after Napolitano.

Mayes, a former moderate Republican, will face the winner of the crowded Republican primary Aug 2. for attorney general. She said she differs greatly from all the Republican candidates in her views, particularly in accepting President Joe Biden's win, which the GOP candidates question and Attorney General Mark Brnovich is now investigating.

"I watched the Republican AG debate (on Arizona PBS) with a degree of dismay and horror as all six candidates would have refused to have certified the 2020 election without qualification," she told The Arizona Republic in an interview.

Mayes' two would-be opponents for the Democratic nomination, state lawmaker Diego Rodriguez and attorney Bob McWhirter, dropped out of the race earlier this year.

Arizona primary is Aug. 2: Everything you need to know to vote in the election

A single mother on the campaign trail

Mayes is the only candidate in the attorney general's race who is a single mother. She said running for office has made her take stock of her priorities.

"The best part of my day is dropping my daughter off at school in the morning because it's the purest time that I have with her," Mayes said. "While it was hard to make the decision to get in as a mom, it was also impossible for me not to get in as a mom because this is very much a fight for our state's future.

"There are two things that I love dearly in this world: one is my daughter, Hattie, and the other is the state of Arizona."

Democratic attorney general candidate Kris Mayes (right) speaks to the press in front of the Arizona Attorney General's Office in Phoenix on June 30, 2022.
Democratic attorney general candidate Kris Mayes (right) speaks to the press in front of the Arizona Attorney General's Office in Phoenix on June 30, 2022.

Focusing on 'ignored' issues

Mayes is from rural Arizona and cares deeply about those areas of the state.

"I think it's it's something the current attorney general has ignored and that's not going to happen on my watch. I'm going to be an attorney general for the entire state," she said. "It's an important part of who I am and my background."

Mayes also said Gov. Doug Ducey and Attorney General Mark Brnovich have not done enough to combat the fentanyl crisis in the state.

"I think it is outrageous and unacceptable for the AG and governor to be sitting on a $5 billion mountain of surplus funding and to have not gone after this crisis."

Mayes said that despite having one of the fastest-growing populations of elderly people, Brnovich also hasn't made prosecuting elder abuse a priority.

"Brnovich has done a terrible job of combating elder abuse," she said. "On Day One, we're going to increase resources to prosecute elder abuse."

Election guide: 2022 primaries

U.S. Senate | Governor |Secretary of state|Legislature | Treasurer | County attorney |Attorney general| Superintendent | Corporation Commission | District 1 | District 3 | District 4| District 5| District 6|District 8| District 9 | City council

Shifting back to consumer protection

Mayes said consumer protection is a priority for her and she would restore the money that Brnovich has taken out of the consumer protection revolving fund and put into other arenas, like the federalism unit, whose function she characterized as generating right-wing lawsuits.

"Millions of dollars have been essentially looted from the consumer fraud protection," she said. "That money needs to be used to investigate the 15,000 cases of complaints of consumer fraud that are coming into our AG's office.

"It is absurd that the current AG would shift that money out of that fund and over into his political projects. That's what I mean when I say we're going to we're going to take politics out of this office."

What you might not know about Mayes

Mayes family owned a tree farm.

"We grew trees on our land in Prescott and gave them away to the community every year," she said. "My father instilled in all of us a deep appreciation for public service. ... I think those trees represented that love of Arizona and care for the future."

She also is a good badminton player:

"My doubles partner and I almost won the state championship," Mayes said, with Prescott High School. "We lost to Xavier; I'll never forget it."

And she likes country music.

"I'm an old-school country music fan,"  she said. "I like Dwight Yoakam, Trisha Yearwood, Johnny Cash."

What people get wrong

Mayes says that she is more approachable than some people might think, despite taking on the utilities at the corporation commission.

"I was known as pretty tough on the Corporation Commission. ... I was aggressively pro-consumer," she said, "People don't realize I like to laugh."

Mayes believes that approachability is an important part of the attorney general's job. She said that as corporation commissioner, she was proud of holding town halls and public comment sessions outside of Phoenix.

Mayes held office hours in Prescott and Tucson, in addition to the state's capital, and says she will do that again as attorney general, in addition to opening an office in eastern Arizona.

"It's public service. I don't like this trend that I see of other politicians hiding out," Mayes said. "If you're going to do that, then you should go do something else."

Tara Kavaler is a politics reporter at The Arizona Republic. She can be reached by email at tara.kavaler@arizonarepublic.com or on Twitter @kavalertara.  

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Arizona attorney general primary 2022 candidate: Kris Mayes