Doug Ducey Wins Arizona GOP Primary For Governor

August 26, 2014

(Photo by Nick Blumberg - KJZZ)
Republican primary winners Jeff DeWit, Michele Reagan, Gov. Jan Brewer, Doug Ducey, and Mark Brnovich on Primary Election Night.
(Courtesy of dougducey.com)
Doug Ducey

State treasurer and former CEO Doug Ducey won the Republican primary for Arizona governor Tuesday, easily riding to victory with a campaign that focused on his blend of government and business experience in serving as a state official and building an ice cream company into a national brand.

Republican party leaders were quick to call for unity after a bruising six-way race for the nomination.

Chief among those leaders was Gov. Jan Brewer, who had endorsed former Mesa Mayor Scott Smith. After Smith conceded, Brewer introduced Ducey at the party’s election night headquarters. She said she’s confident he can lead Arizona in the right direction.

Surrounded by friends, family, and fellow Republican winners, Ducey said he’s ready to take the fight to Democratic nominee Fred Duval over the next ten weeks.

“I have a very clear agenda. We will kickstart our economy, we will reform K-12 education, and we will get Arizona out from underneath the thumb of our federal government," Ducey said.

That includes working to replace the Common Core educational standards. Ducey said Arizona doesn’t need Common Core, rather common sense.

In his concession speech, Smith told supporters that even though his campaign wasn’t successful, "we can look back and be proud at every day when we went out and we talked to the people of Arizona, and we gave them a message, maybe that wasn't red meat. Maybe it didn't fit the the primary campaign mode, but it was the truth," he said.

Ducey started Cold Stone Creamery in Arizona and built it into a well-known chain before selling the company in 2007 and getting into politics.

He has been state treasurer for the last four years, serving as the chief steward of Arizona's finances during a period that included the collapse of the housing market in the state.

Ducey, 50, led Smith, the nearest competitor in the six-candidate primary field, by 15 percentage points, and quickly moved on to the general election, saying he was going to unite not only the party but all Arizonans.

"I want to be the governor for all the people, and in this campaign I will reach out to all the people," he said at a Republican Party rally in Phoenix. "You have my word that as the Republican nominee, I will keep giving this race the best that is in me, and I will earn the vote by showing the best that is in Arizona."

Ducey faces DuVal, who was unopposed in the primary.

DuVal told a crowd at his party's primary night event that he would be honest and transparent as governor. "Whether you are a Republican or an independent or Democrat, as long as you are committed to education, job creation, and you're committed to cleaning up our government, you are welcome in this campaign," he said.

Former State Senator Rich Crandall expects a lot of money from across the country to pour into the November general election race for governor, including from groups like the Democratic and Republican Governor’s Associations.

"The governor’s race is gonna attract national attention. Fred DuVal has some national time on that stage with Bill Clinton, and Doug Ducey, good guy, he’s very personable, I think it’s gonna be an incredible campaign for governor," Crandall said.

The race to replace Republican Gov. Jan Brewer began as a fairly quiet contest focused on health care and jobs before shifting abruptly when thousands of immigrant children began pouring into the country and some settled in Arizona.

In the quest for right-leaning Republican primary voters, the six candidates quickly staked out hard-line positions on immigration and repeatedly attacked the Obama administration for failing to secure the border.

The contest turned into a bitter slugfest between Ducey, Smith and former GoDaddy executive Christine Jones, who finished third.

"We wanted to have a message that was positive, a message about Arizona's future," Smith told supporters in a concession speech. "We fell a little short tonight ... Maybe it wasn't red meat, maybe it didn't fit the primary mold."

In an interview, Smith said he was proud to have done as well as he did, considering he was hit with negative advertising and vastly outspent by candidates with large personal fortunes.

"I'm not really into moral victories, but on this one I'm proud we ran a campaign that resonated with so many Arizonans even though we were at a severe disadvantage. It means our message had meaning," he said.

Ducey and Jones poured millions of their own cash into the race. Smith lagged in fundraising but had the endorsement of Brewer.

In a statement, Jones also said she was proud if her campaign and urged party unity.

"Now it's time for us to work for the good of Arizona," she said. "The real battle lies ahead — for our state and the next generation."

Brewer, who will leave office in January, also embraced Ducey although she had campaigned vigorously for Smith.

"There is only one candidate who will fight federal overreach and Barack Obama's failed policies," Brewer said. "Let me be perfectly clear: I am a friend of Doug Ducey, and I wholeheartedly endorse him as Arizona's next governor."

Well behind Tuesday night were Secretary of State Ken Bennett, former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas and former California congressman Frank Riggs.

Updated 8/26/2014 at 11:01 p.m.

KJZZ's Nick Blumberg and Mark Brodie contributed to this report.