PHOENIX — After spending millions on advertising and crisscrossing the
state for months, attending barbecues, chamber of commerce meetings and other
events to get their message out, Arizona’s six-way Republican governor’s primary
is widely seen as a contest between Mesa Mayor Scott Smith and Arizona Treasurer
Ducey skipped the final candidate forums this week. Smith, meanwhile, is
barnstorming the state Friday with Republican Gov. Jan Brewer at his side,
hoping the governor’s blessing makes a difference.
Early balloting began in July, but the actual election is set for Tuesday. A
high turnout of primary day voters — especially by a large independent bloc —
could give Smith a boost, according to Republican political consultant Bert
The other candidates include former Internet company executive and primary dark
horse Christine Jones, Secretary of State Ken Bennett, former Maricopa County
Attorney Andrew Thomas and former U.S. Rep. Frank Riggs.
“It’s all going to come down to the independents, that, at least in the data
that I’ve seen, trends toward Scott Smith,” said Coleman, who isn’t working
for any candidates in the race.
“It is absolutely a two-person race between
Scott Smith and Doug Ducey. I would have to guess that Doug Ducey is probably a
few points ahead at this point.”
Smith has cast himself alongside Brewer as a pragmatic Republican, one who
looks at the facts before deciding to chart a course, even if it angers the
right wing of the party. Brewer has famously broken with party conservatives by
backing a temporary sales tax and an expansion of the state’s Medicaid program
under the federal Affordable Care Act.
But Brewer, one of the most popular political figures in the state, waited
until nearly a week after early ballots were sent out before endorsing Smith, a
delay that may have hurt his election chances.
“I will make decisions just like Gov. Brewer did, just like my fellow mayors
have, always in the best interests of our citizens and the state,” he said at
an event this week. “We are going to win on Tuesday, we’re going to win because
that’s what Arizonans want. They want real leadership, they want truth and
honesty, and they want a positive image of Arizona.”
Sean Noble, another well-known Republican political consultant who is tracking
the race and backing Ducey, said Brewer’s endorsement of Smith came too late to
help and may have actually hurt.
“By endorsing him and saying he’s the guy that’s going to carry on my legacy
of Medicaid expansion, she took his biggest weakness and amplified it,” Noble
“Primary Republican voters despise Medicaid expansion, especially when
they understand it’s the Obamacare Medicare expansion.”
Ducey has been a vigorous campaigner since announcing his candidacy in February
and built a long list of endorsements from prominent conservative Republicans,
both from Arizona and outside.
“That helps you build broad coalitions, and that’s what this race has been
about in many ways, is bringing people together so that we can move the state
ahead,” Ducey said at one of dozens of “ice cream social” events he’s held in
Ducey is the former CEO of Cold Stone Creamery, a franchised brand with more
than 1,400 locations when the firm was sold in 2007. He ran for state treasurer
in 2010 and topped the Democratic candidate by more than 10 percentage points.
His signature campaign line: “I built a company, now I’d like to shrink a
government and grow our economy.”
Jones, however, could play spoiler to both perceived front runners. The former
general counsel for Internet domain provider GoDaddy, has spent more than $2
million of her own money in her effort to win her first elected office. Her
former boss at GoDaddy has spent $2 million of his fortune backing her.
Jones jumped into the race as a political outsider who touted her conservative
credentials, then latched onto illegal immigration as a hot-button topic after
it was revealed that tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors were surging over
the border into Texas. She called for fencing, use of the National Guard on the
border and billing President Barack Obama for the costs, and she has kept up the
drum-beat on the campaign trail.
Ducey made similar statements in his television ads, and Thomas is the most
virulent anti-immigration candidate.
That helped Smith gather some support.
“I see Scott as middle of the road,” said Bob Beck, a Glendale Republican who
went to hear Smith speak at a recent event. “I keep finding that other
candidates are just pandering to people’s emotions, and they come across as
whack jobs. And Scott isn’t a whack job. When he comes up with ideas they appear
to be well thought out.”
Ducey has pushed for lower regulations, an overhaul of the state tax code, and
lawsuit reform as ways to attract new business to the state. That’s has helped
him gather considerable business support.
“It appears to me,” said Bob Miller, a Scottsdale businessman who held a
small meet-and-greet for Ducey last week, “that Ducey has the experience of
actually leading corporations to a successful stage, and secondly as treasurer
now he has experience in government and knows has the mechanism works.”