Hobbs withdraws Arizona Department of Health Services nominee after Senate denies confirmation – The Center Square

Gov. Katie Hobbs has pulled Dr. Theresa Cullen’s nomination to lead the Arizona Department of Health Services.

The governor’s withdrawal comes after a hearing by the new Senate Director Nominations Committee with Cullen resulted in a 3-2 vote not to recommend her to hold the position last week. The Senate voted down her nomination on Tuesday.

“Her actions and her decisions saved countless lives during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Hobbs said in a statement, nodding to the intense conversation about the pandemic during the committee hearing. “In December 2022, Arizona became the State with the single highest number of Covid deaths per capita across the country. Dr. Cullen’s leadership during those tumultuous years directly resulted in more Arizonans being alive and with us today.”

Republicans said keeping Cullen out of office protected Arizonans from a “tyrant” that would have been willing to take several personal liberties away.

“We have Dr. Cullen on record in a number of media publications stating she supported the scientifically baseless and prolonged school closures, business closures, lockdowns, curfews, mask mandates, vaccine mandates and public shaming of those who did not comply with her discriminatory COVID directives, including her support for race-based public health policy,” said Senate Committee on Director Nominations Chairman Jake Hoffman.

Cullen, heads the Pima County Health Department, would typically take stricter stances on the pandemic compared to the Ducey administration, The Center Square reported in December.

However, Hobbs said it was ultimately Cullen’s decision not to go forward in the process.

“While I am deeply concerned that Dr. Cullen has chosen not to proceed as the nominee for AzDHS director, I understand and respect her decision. The way some Republicans on the State Senate’s committee on director nominations was nothing short of harassment and those who participated in it should be ashamed of their behavior – we all should,” she said.

In terms of a replacement, Hobbs said in the statement that “there may be no public health professional in the State they would endorse,” in reference to Republicans in the Senate.

“Dr. Cullen, [Hobbs’s] appointee for Director of Health Services, refused to allow unvaccinated children in Pima County to attend school,” Senate Majority Leader Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu City, tweeted.

“I happily voted NO! We need someone who will do a good job for AZ! I strongly urge Gov Hobbs to nominate a qualified candidate!” he added.