Former progressive lawmaker Martin Quezada denied recommendation for Hobbs cabinet position

Arizona state Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Glendale, appears at a news conference at the state Capitol in Phoenix on March 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Bob Christie) Bob Christie / AP Photo

Citing concerns about partisan – and sometimes bordering on inflammatory – statements about Republicans, a nominating committee chose not to recommend a former Democratic lawmaker to permanently hold a position in Gov. Katie Hobbs’ cabinet.

The Senate Committee on Director Nominations voted 3-2 along party lines Wednesday not to recommend approval of former state Sen. Martin Quezada for Registrar of Contractors.

The position approves professional licensure for most of the state’s commercial contracting businesses.

“Mr. Quezada has a history at the Arizona Legislature of spreading antisemitism, which prompted the Israel Heritage Foundation to send Katie Hobbs a letter calling for his termination as ROC Director,” said Committee Chairman Jake Hoffman. “What’s equally disturbing are his continual, on-the-record comments made while serving as a legislator regarding hiring and firing practices. According to Mr. Quezada, qualifications for a job are determined by skin color, gender, religion and political affiliation. This is not a philosophy any state agency should ever adopt.”

The Valley Democrat took more than an hour of questioning from the committee regarding a history of controversial statements while in office and on social media amid mass shootings, doubting how he could remain partial when approving contractor licenses. 

Quesada remained cordial in his responses to Republicans, even one from Hoffman asking about Quezada’s tweet saying the GOP was responsible for a mass shooting.

“We have made it a value statement in this agency that peoples’ partisan preference outside of our office is completely irrelevant to our licensing decisions,” Quezada said. “If there are strong conservative Republicans who I disagree with on almost anything and everything, they’re still going to get licensed by us if they meet the qualifications by statute, and they’re still going to be treated fairly in the investigation process because they are our constituency.”

One line of questioning related to a movie screening at the Arizona Capitol critical of pro-Israel laws passed by a few states. The documentary “Boycott” is about legal battles challenging three states’ anti-BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) laws. Quezada facilitated the screening. Multiple organizations called for Quezada’s removal after the event.

Democrats on the committee defended Quezada’s integrity, pointing to his legal experience in lieu of any experience in commercial contracting. Others in the contracting industry spoke in defense of Quezada as well. 

Hobbs’ office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the vote. 

Quezada served in the Arizona Legislature for more than a decade and accepted an appointment from Hobbs to acting Registrar of Contractors in January. 

The committee vote isn’t the final consideration. The full Senate will consider Quezada’s nomination at a later date. 

Republished with the permission of The Center Square.