Gov. Doug Ducey, the Arizona Republican with perhaps the biggest target on his back this year, defeated Democrat David Garcia Tuesday, according to early vote totals.
Despite facing a spirited Democratic opponent, an unusually energized Democratic electorate and scores of teachers still fired up by the Red for Ed movement this year, Ducey emerged victorious this election cycle.
In fact, Ducey crushed Garcia Tuesday by more than 17 percentage points — a wider margin than when he defeated Democrat Fred DuVal in the 2014 governor’s race.
But Tuesday’s election results aren’t exactly surprising. Weeks out from the election, Ducey was poised to easily win the election. Most political pundits had written off the contest long before Election Day.
In his victory speech at the Arizona GOP watch party, Ducey struck a bipartisan tone as he talked about successes in his first term, namely pulling the state out of a $1 billion budget deficit.
“The progress our state has made, none of it could have happened without people coming together and working together,” he said. “Not only in our Capitol community, but across our state.”
But Ducey also looked ahead to the next four years. Ducey said his goal has always been to be a governor for all Arizonans and that goal didn’t change during his contentious re-election fight.
“We celebrate tonight,” he said. “Tomorrow we get to work and it is work we do together, putting the campaign behind us and letting politics stand down.”
Ducey’s tone on Election Day was noticeably different from candidate Ducey, who stumped with President Donald Trump and came out swinging in the first of two gubernatorial debates with Garcia.
— Carmen Forman (@CarmenMForman) November 7, 2018
While Democratic momentum may propel some Democratic candidates to big wins this election cycle, polls showed Ducey leading Garcia by double digits — a lead that would be hard for any candidate to overcome.
Garcia, who has been campaigning for more than a year, put up an exuberant fight. But the odds were stacked against him considering the sheer amount of money Ducey and his allies poured into the race.
Garcia was also a unique candidate in that he tacked further left than any other statewide Democrat. Garcia’s progressive gubernatorial campaign was far different from his 2014 bid for Superintendent of Public Instruction, which he lost to Diane Douglas by 1 percentage point.
A public education advocate and professor at Arizona State University, Garcia jumped into the race when Ducey signed legislation expanding the Empowerment Scholarship Account program. He also appeared to try to ride momentum among the education community stirred up by the Red for Ed movement in the spring.
Many Arizona teachers have been increasingly frustrated with Ducey. More than 70,000 teachers walked out of their classrooms in the spring and marched on the state Capitol demanding higher teacher pay.
Red for Ed supporters were also devastated when the Invest in Education Act — a ballot measure to boost K-12 education funding by boosting taxes on the wealthiest Arizonans — was kicked off the November ballot by the Arizona Supreme Court. Ducey vehemently opposed the measure.
Ducey campaigned heavily on the economy and the border — bread-and-butter GOP issues.
After taking office in a post-recession era wherein the state was still strapped for cash, Ducey takes credit for helping grow Arizona’s economy and lower the state’s unemployment.
He frequently touted his Border Strike Force on the campaign trail and attacked Garcia for his positions on immigration and border security.
Despite a long history of Arizona governors not serving their full terms and speculation he may seek higher elected office or may be tapped for a presidential appointment, Ducey has vowed to serve out his full, four-year term.
Governor’s race race by the numbers
*Doug Ducey: 57.8 percent
David Garcia: 40.2 percent
* Denotes incumbent