Who is Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes?

Could Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes soon take center stage in another criminal case involving former President Donald Trump? Mayes’ office is reportedly investigating an alleged “fake elector” scheme to support Trump in 2020, sparking speculation that her state could become the latest to bring charges against the former president’s inner circle. So who is Arizona’s Democratic attorney general? 

A background in journalism

Mayes was born in Prescott, Arizona, and raised on a tree farm; her mother was a teacher, while her father was a pharmacist, according to her campaign advertising. She studied journalism and political science at Arizona State University, per her website, and she began her career as a reporter for outlets like the Arizona Republic. 

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In 2000, Mayes made news while covering the presidential election when she wasn’t allowed on John McCain’s campaign bus while the senator was feuding with her outlet, according to The Washington Post. While at the Arizona Republic, Mayes was one of 10 staffers flagged for purchasing stock in Central Newspapers before the sale of the newspaper’s parent company to Gannett Co. was announced, according to AZ Central. She has denied having inside information, maintaining that rumors about it were circulating for weeks, per KAWC. At the time, Executive Editor Pam Johnson reportedly said an investigation found none of the reporters “had what securities regulators would consider ‘insider information'” but “acted on gossip.” 

The Arizona Corporation Commission  

In 2002, Mayes served as press secretary for Janet Napolitano during her gubernatorial campaign. Napolitano later appointed Mayes to the Arizona Corporation Commission, where she served from 2003 to 2010. During this time, Mayes “prosecuted consumer fraud and returned tens of millions of dollars to the victims of fraud in the state of Arizona” and decided 2,700 cases, she said during a 2022 debate. 

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Mayes earned a law degree from Arizona State University and has been a member of the Arizona State Bar since 2005. She also received a Master’s of Public Administration from Columbia University. Mayes was a professor at Arizona State University’s School of Global Sustainability, and she taught energy law at ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, according to her website. 

Leaving the GOP

Mayes was a Republican until she switched parties and became a Democrat in 2019, and she told The Guardian this was due to the rise of Trumpism in the GOP. The Republican Party “left me and many moderates like me,” she said. She also told ABC15 Arizona she “couldn’t be a part” of a party that refused to “stand up against the Jan. 6 riots” and “oppose Donald Trump’s terrible actions.” 

The 2022 election

During Arizona’s 2022 attorney general election, a key issue in Mayes’ campaign was the state’s “dire situation with water scarcity, increasing heat, wildfires and air pollution,” and she also pledged to protect reproductive rights. Her Republican opponent was Abraham Hamadeh, a former Army captain who argued Mayes did not have sufficient legal experience. During his campaign, Hamadeh falsely claimed the 2020 presidential election was “rigged” and promised a “day of reckoning” for “those who worked to rob President Trump” of a second term.

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The race came down to a razor-thin margin, with Mayes prevailing by just over 500 votes. After a recount, her lead decreased to 280 votes, and this was one of the closest Arizona state elections ever, according to The Associated Press. Mayes became the first openly gay Arizona attorney general, as well as the first who’s also a mom, AZ Central noted. 

Investigating fake electors

One month after taking office, Mayes released the results of an “exhaustive and extensive investigation” into the 2020 election in Arizona that she said showed it was “conducted fairly and accurately,” a finding the previous attorney general, a Republican, allegedly sat on.  

In August 2023, CBS News reported Mayes’ office was conducting an investigation into an “alleged attempt to use alternate electors after the 2020 presidential election” to benefit Trump, as she previously promised to do. “We are taking this investigation very seriously, very solemnly,” she told 12 News. “We will not move forward unless we believe we’ll be successful.”

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