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Politicos say Reagan is toughest challenge for Goddard in secretary of state race

Democrat Terry Goddard and Republican Michele Reagan will face off for Arizona attorney general.

Democrat Terry Goddard and Republican Michele Reagan will face off for Arizona Secretary of State’s Office.

Democrats often struggle to compete in down-ballot, low-profile races like secretary of state, and having a candidate with the history and name identification of Terry Goddard has given them reason to hope they can overcome that obstacle.

But following Sen. Michele Reagan’s victory in the three-way Republican primary, Goddard now faces an especially uphill climb, according to politicos on both sides of the aisle.

“Any time your name is Terry Goddard, you have a shot,” said Republican political consultant Nathan Sproul.

However, Reagan is clearly the most difficult opponent Goddard could have drawn.

“She’s articulate. She’s smart. She’s capable of raising money. She’s got a great name. She’s got a great history in Arizona. It’s extremely difficult to find anybody in Arizona politics who’s critical of her about anything,” Sproul said.

Though many Democrats are bullish on Goddard’s chances, some acknowledge how difficult a challenge he faces against Reagan. Democratic lobbyist and consultant Mario Diaz said he has a tremendous amount of respect for the Republican nominee and the passion she has shown in her campaign.

“I think that that energy has been apparent throughout this campaign and I believe it will carry over to the general,” Diaz said.

Reagan, a state senator from Scottsdale who has spent 14 years in the Legislature, raised more than $300,000 for her campaign.  She was the only candidate of either party in the race who showed any fundraising proficiency. Goddard and GOP candidate Justin Pierce ran with Clean Elections funding, while Republican Wil Cardon self-funded the overwhelming majority of the $465,000 he raised.

Goddard has run on a message of stopping dark money, which became the preeminent issue of the Republicans thanks to an anonymously funded independent expenditure that came to Pierce’s aid. But Reagan has been vociferous on the issue herself, and even sponsored legislation during the 2014 legislative session to require disclosure of dark money contributors.

Reagan said the issue is likely off the table for the general election since she and Goddard agree. But she said there are plenty of other issues separating them, many of which were part of an omnibus election bill she ran last year.

The law would have prohibited campaigns from collecting voters’ early ballots, a staple of Democratic campaigns; made it easier for election officials to purge inactive voters from the Permanent Early Voting List; and made it harder for citizen initiatives to qualify for the ballot.

Democrats strenuously opposed the law and forced a repeal after collecting enough signatures to refer it to the 2014 ballot for a referendum. But Reagan said she’ll continue to advocate for the measures, without a provision that would have dramatically increased signature requirements for third-party candidates.

“He’s got name ID,” Reagan said. “He was our attorney general. And certainly it’s not going to be a cakewalk. But I definitely believe I’m ready for him. There’s going to be some very distinct differences on what he thinks the world of elections should be like and what I think they should be like.”

Goddard has made it clear he still thinks dark money is an issue that separates him from Reagan. Despite her opposition to anonymous campaign funding, Goddard said Reagan is not prepared to fight against dark money.

“After twelve years in the Legislature, she failed in her one attempt to improve disclosures. Not surprising, given her contributor list is a who’s who of corporate lobbyists,” Goddard said in a press statement.

Goddard also criticized Reagan for switching positions on abortion and a 2014 religious liberty bill that critics panned as anti-gay — she was previously pro-choice. He chastised her for sponsoring the omnibus election bill. He also noted that she was quick to push for the repeal of her 2013 election law rather than subject it to a voter referendum.

Reagan won 43 percent of the vote compared to Pierce’s 34 percent and Cardon’s 22 percent.

The Arizona Free Enterprise Club, a free market advocacy group, spent more than $700,000 — all of it contributed anonymously — on Pierce’s behalf, sending out mail pieces promoting the second-term lawmaker while attacking Cardon and Reagan.

But Reagan was able to withstand the dark money campaign waged for Pierce. She gave a lot of credit for her win to Gov. Jan Brewer, who endorsed her, campaigned with her and appeared in a television ad for her.

“We saw my numbers go up when Governor Brewer endorsed me and we saw them kick up a little bit again when we launched our TV ad. The more Governor Brewer and I traveled, the more my numbers inched up.”

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