Scott Smith has largely run as the candidate who will carry on Gov. Jan Brewer’s legacy, and Brewer has now given her official imprimatur to the former Mesa mayor as her chosen successor.
Brewer endorsed Smith at an event at Mesa’s Cubs Park on Thursday with Mark Berger, touting him as the candidate who will build on the work she’s done in the past five-plus years. Her endorsement is expected to be a major boost to his campaign, which appears to have gained new life in recent days.
“It is of the utmost importance that our next governor tells us the truth about where we stand, not feel-good sound bites that litter modern-day politics. Our next governor must be able to confront challenges head on, and, like me, be willing to go down the more difficult path,” Brewer said while flanked by a dozen Republican lawmakers and candidates. “In his career as a businessman and a CEO, as well as his six-year term as mayor of Mesa, Scott Smith has proven he will do just that.”
The governor touted Smith’s accomplishments as the mayor of Mesa and as the CEO of a successful homebuilding company before that, saying he has proven that he can take on difficult challenges.
And Brewer lauded Smith for his support for her on a number of controversial policies she’s implemented during her time as governor, including a temporary one-cent sales tax increase, the expansion of Arizona’s Medicaid program and the adoption of Arizona College and Career Readiness Standards, the K-12 educational standards formerly known as Common Core.
Brewer said she is proud to have helped pull Arizona out of the depths of the great recession and put it on the path to what she has long called the Arizona Comeback. Smith, she said, will continue that job and take on the next generation of challenges facing the state.
“Now, my fellow Arizonans, it’s time to pass the torch on to the next person to lead our beloved state. Scott Smith has been through the great recession as mayor, faced the toughest challenges head on, and has left his city better than when he found it. He didn’t shy away from leading in a time of crisis. And most importantly, he told the citizens the truth,” Brewer said.
As the only candidate in the six-way Republican field who supports Common Core standards and Brewer’s Medicaid expansion plan, which dramatically expanded health care for low-income Arizonans under the Affordable Care Act, Smith has taken a lot of heat from grassroots conservatives. But Smith embraced Brewer’s agenda, praising her for preparing students to compete in a global economy and for helping to save rural hospitals.
“I am honored that she has deemed me to be a worthy successor to her legacy, a leader capable of building a better Arizona on the foundation of the Arizona comeback,” he said. “I commit to you that I will follow the governor’s lead and will work tirelessly to build on the foundation she’s laid.”
Brewer also said Smith shares her values on border security, giving him political cover on an issue where he has often stood in contrast with other Republicans. Smith opposed SB1070, the 2010 illegal immigration bill that vaulted Brewer to national stardom, and is viewed by conservative critics as being soft on the issue. Two protesters wearing Barack Obama masks stood on the street in front of Cubs Park, one of whom carried a sign that called out Smith for his opposition to SB1070.
“I will never back down on getting our border secured, nor would I ever support anyone who does not share this fundamental priority with me,” Brewer said.
Smith said Brewer is right when she says that the border must be secured before the nation’s broken immigration system can be fixed, and is right when she calls on the federal government must take action.
“As your governor, I’ll demand action in Washington for reform that benefits all Arizonans. I’ll do everything within my power as governor to fix this problem and will be relentless in working toward a solution,” he said.
Smith promised to do all he can to bring quality jobs to Arizona. For example, he pointed to the work he and Brewer did in helping to keep the Chicago Cubs in Mesa for Spring Training and bringing a new Apple manufacturing plant to the city.
“We found a solution to keep this economic engine in Arizona without raising taxes. That’s what true conservatism is. Conservative leaders create bright futures,” Smith said.
The popular governor’s endorsement comes at an opportune time for Smith. His campaign was largely viewed as faltering and running low on money, and many thought the GOP primary had become a two-way race between state Treasurer Doug Ducey and former GoDaddy executive Christine Jones. Ducey’s supporters in the business community even made recent efforts to pick off Smith’s business support by promoting Ducey as the only one of the two who could win the primary.
But Brewer’s endorsement and a recent poll showing Smith barely trailing behind Ducey buoyed his campaign. Smith said he raised $50,000 in the last 24 hours based on those two things, and that he expected Brewer’s support to increase his fundraising, where he has fallen short of Ducey and Jones.
He said Brewer has also committed to doing everything she can to help get him elected, though he didn’t know whether that would include fundraisers and television ads.
Even though the endorsement came nearly a week after early ballots started, Brewer and Smith said the endorsement didn’t come too late to make a major impact on the race.
Smith said the endorsement is a game-changer.
“Next week, two weeks from now, the timing will have been forgotten because most Arizonans still have not voted. A large number of Arizona Republicans still are undecided. I think this will go a great way to introducing me to those who may not know me well enough, and they’ll be there to vote. Absolutely it’s not too late,” he said.