PHOENIX — Secretary of State Katie Hobbs is asking a top aide to Gov. Doug Ducey to remove a monument to the Confederacy from a state park across from the Capitol.
In a letter to Andy Tobin, director of the Department of Administration, Hobbs said the monument was erected not right after the Civil War but not until the early 1960s, when the country was on the brink of several major civil rights breakthroughs.
“It was a clear attempt to repudiate the progress of our country,’’ she wrote.
Now, Hobbs said, the nation “once again faces a moment of transformation.’’
“We won’t heal the divisions in our country by honoring those who would divide us,’’ she said.
The letter went to Tobin, named to the position by Ducey, because Arizona law gives him the power to relocate any of the monuments in Wes Bolin Park.
Tobin did not return calls seeking comment. But Ducey himself has been hostile to prior efforts to remove this and other Confederate monuments, saying in 2017 he does not favor their removal.
“I don’t think we should try to hide our history,’’ the governor said, including this one which is within view of his office window at the Capitol.
But Hobbs, in her letter to Tobin, took issue with that point of view.
“Removing this monument isn’t a choice to erase our history, it’s a choice to embrace our future,’’ she wrote.
But Hobbs said it does not deserve to remain in the public park.
“This is a monument to soldiers on the losing side of a war who rose up against the country in treason to protect the practice of slavery,’’ she told Capitol Media Services.
Tobin, for his, part, said he’s willing to look at the issue.
“It’s appropriate to ask,’’ he said. And Tobin said he’s been personally bothered for years that there is a road in Arizona which runs from the Phoenix area to Globe named the Jefferson Davis Highway.
There was no immediate response from Ducey to the request.
The issue of monuments and the Confederacy has taken on new life in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, an incident that was captured on video. That has energized nationwide protests and resulted this past week in Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam saying he intends to remove a statute honoring Confederate General Robert E. Lee from Monument Avenue in Richmond.
“It was wrong then, and it’s wrong now,’’ Northam said. “So we’re taking it down.’’
Hobbs acknowledged that if the Arizona monument is removed it is likely to be little more than symbolic.
“This is not going to solve anything,’’ she told Capitol Media Services. “But I think it would make a really strong statement about the priorities of our state leadership to do something about this monument.’’
The monument at the Arizona Capitol does not have anywhere near that history, having been a gift to the state in 1962 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
In justifying the governor’s position in 2017, Daniel Scarpinato, who at the time was Ducey’s press aide, said the public sides with his boss in wanting to keep the monuments in place. He cited a national Marist Poll done for NPR and PBS which said 62 percent of Americans think the monuments and statues to the Confederacy should stay, with just 27 percent saying they should be removed because some find them offensive.
And a statewide survey of likely voters done in the middle of that controversy found that 51.5 percent of the 400 people asked said the memorial should definitely be allowed to return. Only 26.3 percent said it definitely should be removed, with everyone else somewhere in the middle.
Hobbs said she favored the 2017 effort to move the monument when she was in the legislature.
Since that time the issue has faded from the headlines, along with parallel effort to rename the Jefferson Davis Highway and a monument at Picacho Peak State Park, maintained by the Parks Department, with a Confederate flag and a plaque “dedicated to those Confederate frontiersment’’ who occupied the Arizona territory the Confederacy had claimed and who fought Union soldiers in the only Civil War battle in Arizona.
“Right now we’re at a tipping point,’’ Hobbs said.
She is offering what she calls a “compromise’’ of moving the monument into non-public storage at the Capitol Museum, which falls under her purview. That, she said, at least ensures its preservation, suggesting that it might fall victim to vandalism if it remains where it is.