After spending $3.2 million of his own money on his campaign, Northern Arizona businessman Buz Mills bowed out of the governor’s race, leaving Jan Brewer virtually unopposed in the Republican primary.
Mills, a political unknown when he entered the race in November, announced that he was suspending his campaign on July 13.
Mills said he dropped out due to the way S1070 shifted the public’s focus to illegal immigration and away from the economic and tax issues that formed the foundation of his campaign. The strict new illegal immigration law, which Brewer signed on April 23, gave Brewer a tremendous boost in the polls.
“SB 1070 has regrettably taken the focus off of job creation and fixing the state budget. So even though the chasm between Brewer’s policies and mine is dramatic, SB 1070 has politically mitigated those issues. I have therefore decided to suspend the campaign,” Mills said in a press statement.
Mills’ announcement came just four days after state Treasurer Dean Martin dropped out of the governor’s race, effectively clearing the field for Brewer in the GOP primary. After Martin announced the suspension of his campaign, Mills touted himself as the lone conservative alternative to Brewer, who faced fierce criticism from Republicans over her push for a temporary sales tax increase.
Unlike Martin, who vowed to back Brewer in her fight with the federal government over S1070, Mills made no statement of support for the incumbent governor. Mills has not yet decided whether he will endorse Brewer, Mills’ campaign manager Camilla Strongin said.
“I don’t think there’s any argument that his policies and beliefs, from a conservative standpoint, are far different from Gov. Brewer, who has pushed for tax increases and not done the type of budget cutting that he feels is necessary,” Strongin said.
In a press statement, Brewer urged Mills’ supporters to back her campaign and focus on a Republican victory in November, when she will face Democratic Attorney General Terry Goddard.
“The choices before Arizona voters cannot be more clear between the advocates of bigger government, uncontrolled spending and unaccountable education policies and those of us committed to smaller government, job creation, fiscal discipline, and quality education,” Brewer said.
Mills’ most recent campaign finance report showed that he spent $3.2 million on his campaign, with nearly all of it coming out of his own pocket. But that money and the flurry of television ads he aired across the state never translated into voter support. A Rasmussen Reports poll in March showed the race as a virtual three-way tie, with Mills at 21 percent, Brewer at 20 and Martin at 19. But since Brewer signed S1070, her polling and popularity have shot up and by late June Rasmussen showed her with a 45-point lead over Mills.
Stronging said Mills had no regrets about the vast sum of money he spent on the campaign.
“He felt and still does very strongly about the direction the state is headed. He is committed to making a difference and expanding the dialogue,” she said.
Brewer is still not completely unopposed in the Republican primary. Apache Junction resident Matthew Jette is still actively campaigning for the GOP nomination, but he is considered a long shot, at best, by most observers.
Mills earned his fortune in telecommunications and moved from Florida to Arizona in 1999 after selling his company. He currently owns and operates Gunsite, a tactical firearms training facility in Paulden.