Ducey Tops GOP Field in Arizona Governor Race

Ducey Tops GOP Field in Arizona Governor Race

By Adam O'Neal - August 27, 2014

GOP Arizona Treasurer Doug Ducey captured the Republican nomination for governor in Arizona with about 37 percent of the vote Tuesday, setting up a November contest with Democratic nominee Fred DuVal.

“We are halfway home and now the real race begins.  I’ve run hard in this primary, against able and worthy opponents,” Ducey told supporters during his victory speech. “I will keep running hard as your nominee.”

The Republican survived a lengthy, bruising primary during which a clear frontrunner never emerged from the crowded field.

Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett held the lead late last year and in early 2014, but it quickly evaporated as the other candidates’ profiles expanded. He finished fourth. Former Rep. Frank Riggs -- who represented California in Congress for years before moving to Arizona -- also failed to gain traction, finishing last in the field with just 4.5 percent of the vote.

As the border migrant crisis captured the attention of GOP primary voters earlier this summer, the race began to look like a two-way contest between Ducey and former GoDaddy executive Christine Jones. 

Ducey quickly became national conservatives’ favored candidate, scoring endorsements from Sens. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee, along with Gov. Scott Walker and other well-known national figures. The former Cold Stone Creamery CEO ran a disciplined campaign, and he raised more than $2.5 million. A late endorsement from Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio boosted him further. Ducey, always on message, also managed to fend off opponents’ assertions that his tenure at Cold Stone was not as successful as he portrayed it to be.

Jones, who funneled millions of dollars from her personal fortune into the race and took a tough stance against illegal immigration early on, benefited from the border crisis. Her campaign argued that, unlike her chief rivals -- who outraised her and brought in more high-profile endorsements -- she didn’t owe political allies favors.

In another late surprise, former Mesa Mayor Scott Smith scored an endorsement from Gov. Jan Brewer earlier this month. The Grand Canyon State governor backed Smith, in part because of his willingness to protect the more moderate aspects of Brewer’s legacy, including her embrace of Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

The Brewer endorsement turned the race into a three-way contest overnight. But it wasn’t enough to overcome what Ducey called his “broad coalition” of support. Smith finished second, with about 22 percent of the vote. As voters’ interest in immigration waned, Jones fell and earned just 17 percent.

Despite the lengthy primary, Ducey’s campaign has more than a half-million dollars to spend on the general election already.

While Republicans slogged through their primary, unopposed Democrat Fred DuVal kept his focus on the general election. He campaigned extensively throughout the primary season to remain relevant, appearing alongside GOP candidates at myriad forums and debates.

DuVal -- a former Clinton administration official and Arizona Board of Regents member -- has positioned himself as a moderate in the red state. He has overtly embraced several Republican figures, national and local.

“You've heard me say it, and you'll hear me say it every day for the next 70 days: I will veto cuts to our schools,” DuVal said in a speech last night. “I don't care if I have to keep the legislature in special session until Christmas, I will continue to veto bills until we invest in our kids’ future.”

He told RCP in April that he considers himself a “solutions-oriented centrist” and that he admires former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a Republican. DuVal’s first campaign ad features former Arizona attorney general (and Republican) Grant Woods.

“I’ve known Fred almost all my life,” Woods says in the spot. “He’s a problem solver who brings Republicans and Democrats together.”

DuVal has remained largely untouched throughout the primary season, as the Republican candidates’ fought among themselves. But national Republicans have already begun to push back against DuVal’s moderate credentials.

RGA Executive Director Phil Cox said in a statement that DuVal is a “far-left Democrat whose policies would reverse Arizona’s progress.”

Much of the already sparse public polling in Arizona has focused on the Republican primary, but RCP rates the general election race as “leans GOP.” A DuVal win isn’t unimaginable, but it will be an uphill fight in a state where Republicans control every statewide office and both chambers of the legislature.

A recent Democratic survey shows DuVal and Ducey tied in a general election matchup, though DuVal remains largely unknown to the Arizona electorate.

While both of the state’s U.S. senators are Republicans -- and not up for election this year -- a majority of the House delegation is Democratic. That may change. Arizona is home to two House races rated “tossups” by RCP, and both seats are currently held by Democrats who have endured close re-election contests before.
In Arizona’s 1st Congressional District, Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick is expected to face state House Speaker Andy Tobin, who holds a narrow lead in his primary race, in November. Kirkpatrick earned less than 50 percent of the vote in 2012, beating her opponent by about four points.

Retired Air Force Col. Martha McSally will have another shot at defeating Rep. Ron Barber, a former aide to Democratic Rep. Gabby Giffords. Barber beat McSally in Arizona’s 2nd District in 2012 by fewer than 2,500 votes.

Former Attorney General Terry Goddard -- a Democrat who challenged Brewer in 2010 -- will run against Republican state Sen. Michele Reagan for Arizona secretary of state. Arizona’s constitution does not allow for a lieutenant governor. Instead, the secretary of state is first in the line of succession to the governor.

Gov. Brewer ascended to her current position when then-Gov. Janet Napolitano resigned to become President Obama’s secretary of Homeland Security in 2009.

Adam O'Neal is a political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @RealClearAdam.

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