Buoyed by millions of dollars, outside spending and a memorably broad coalition of Republicans from Arizona and across the country, Doug Ducey has won the six-way GOP primary for governor, maintaining his frontrunner status he’s held for the past few months until the very end.
Ducey will face Democrat Fred DuVal in the general election.
Ducey, the state treasurer, overcame a wave of outside spending on behalf of Christine Jones, attacks on his business record as the former CEO of Cold Stone Creamery, and late surge of momentum from Scott Smith. With about two-thirds of precincts reporting statewide, he leads the race with more than 73 percent of the vote in.
In his victory speech, Ducey said his top priority will be to strengthen Arizona’s economy and foster job creation. He vowed to make Arizona a “shining example of spending discipline,” reform the K-12 education system to emulate the best practices of the state’s best schools, and fight federal programs like Obamacare and Common Core.
“I have a very clear agenda – we will kick start our economy, we will reform K-12 education and we will get Arizona out from underneath the thumb of our federal government,” Ducey said at the Hyatt in downtown Phoenix, where the Arizona Republican Party held its Election Night party.
Smith, who was hindered by a lack of campaign cash, received a boost from Gov. Jan Brewer’s early August endorsement. But it wasn’t enough to put him over the top, as the former Mesa mayor holds a distant second place with 22 percent of the vote.
And Jones, a former GoDaddy executive who appeared to be locked in a two-way battle with Ducey just a month ago, is in third place with 16 percent of the vote. The third-place finish came despite nearly $2 million in spending during the final weeks of the race by an independent expenditure funded by former GoDaddy CEO Bob Parsons.
Secretary of State Ken Bennett is in fourth place with 11 percent of the vote, followed by former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas with about 8 percent and former California Congressman Frank Riggs with about 4 percent.
Ducey will face former Arizona Board of Regents chairman and longtime Democratic operative Fred DuVal in the general election. DuVal ran unopposed in the Democratic primary and unveiled his campaign’s first television ad on Tuesday.
The Arizona Republican Party has repeatedly criticized Democrats for their lack of contested primaries Ducey joined in mocking DuVal for his “clean sweep” in his unopposed primary.
“I want to congratulate Fred on his big win. We now know that this guy is simply unstoppable, as long as he doesn’t have an opponent,” Ducey said. “Starting tonight, it’s a different story, an election with real choices.”
Brewer introduced Ducey, congratulating him along other GOP primary winners, including Sen. Michele Reagan in the secretary of state’s race, Mark Brnovich in the attorney general’s race and Jeff DeWit in the state treasurer’s race.
The governor endorsed Smith earlier in the month, but threw her support behind Ducey for the general election.
“There is only one candidate ready and able to effectively lead Arizona over the next four years. There is only candidate who will fight federal overreach and the failed liberal policies of Barack Obama,” Brewer said. “I stand here tonight and say with sincerity and honesty, that I am pleased to pass those responsibilities on to Arizona’s 23rd governor, Doug Ducey.”
For the past several months, a plethora of polls have shown Ducey leading the race, leading Jones and Smith by varying margins. Rival candidates and other detractors repeatedly questioned the reliability of the polls, many of which were commissioned by pro-Ducey organizations.
Ducey spent a lot of money to build and hold onto that lead. He raised eyebrows in the political community after raking in $1 million by the end of 2013, and matched that with another $1 million through the first five months of 2014.
But as the race went into its final stage, Ducey supplemented that fundraising with own personal wealth, pumping $2.9 million of his own money into the race to sustain his television advertising.
Ducey also received a number of high-profile endorsements, including prominent Arizonans such as Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, former U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl and Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, as well as national figures such as former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.
Without his self-funding, Ducey likely would not have been able to keep pace with Jones, whose campaign was almost exclusively funded with her personal money. Jones spent more than $5 million, nearly all of which was self-funded.
Meanwhile, Smith raised nearly $1.2 million, including $150,000 of his own money he put into the race. But his campaign appeared plagued by cash shortages late in the race. Smith launched his first television ad in June, but went off the air after just two weeks and had trouble maintaining a sustained media buy after that. Smith also faced nearly $700,000 in attack ads late in the race from pro-Ducey independent expenditures, which labeled him as too liberal on issues such as Medicaid expansion.
In his concession speech, Smith he was proud of the positive message he touted in his campaign.
“We wanted to have a message that was positive, a message that talked about Arizona’s future,” Smith said at his election night party at the Mesa Hilton. “Maybe that wasn’t red meat. Maybe that didn’t set the primary campaign mode. But it was the truth. It was a message that I believed in.”
In a press statement, Jones too said she was proud of the way she ran her campaign, even though she was disappointed with the results.
“We got off the sidelines and engaged in the public debate and we shared positive and thoughtful ideas about how this great state could become the brightest star in the union,” the political newcomer Jones said in her statement.
Bennett led the earliest polls of the race, but was unable to hold that lead or gain any traction, largely due to a lack of funds. As a Clean Elections candidate, Bennett had only $753,000 for his campaign.