When President Donald Trump came to Arizona in October to drum up support for Martha McSally, he and Gov. Doug Ducey met for a private, one-on-one meeting.
The sit-down at a Scottsdale resort, which was not disclosed by the Governor’s Office, came at the tail end of Ducey’s re-election bid, wherein Democratic gubernatorial candidate David Garcia tried to tie Ducey to the bombastic president at every turn.
When asked about the meeting this week, a spokesman for the Governor’s Office did not say what Ducey and the president talked about, nor did he specify for how long the two met, although he said the meeting was brief.
“Staff were not at the meeting so I cannot speak to the substance of the conversation,” Ducey spokesman Patrick Ptak said.
A copy of the governor’s schedule obtained by the Arizona Capitol Times through a public records request showed Ducey and Trump had a “sidebar meeting” around lunchtime on October 19, hours before both Trump and Ducey appeared at a rally in Mesa.
The item in Ducey’s schedule shows the meeting was not part of the joint fundraising luncheon put on by the National Republican Senate Committee for McSally’s U.S. Senate campaign. It also shows none of Ducey’s staffers were present when the governor sat down with Trump at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess.
It’s not clear if the item was put in Ducey’s calendar days, weeks, or hours before the event. The meeting started at 12:30 p.m., but no end time was given on the governor’s schedule.
Ducey’s spokesman characterized the sit-down meeting as quick and hastily pulled together. When asked why the one-on-one wasn’t publicly disclosed, Ptak pointed to the governor’s re-election campaign telling reporters that Ducey would appear at the Trump rally later in the day in Mesa.
“This was a quick conversation that happened alongside a previously scheduled event,” Ptak said. “It was publicly disclosed that the governor would appear with the president at an event that day and would be giving remarks.”
Ducey’s campaign informed reporters on October 18 the governor would speak at the Trump rally in Mesa the following day, but said other plans for the president’s visit were still in flux.
Neither Ducey’s campaign nor his official office made any mention of the governor attending the NRSC lunch or meeting privately with Trump, and the event was not included on Ducey’s weekly public schedule.
Throughout his re-election campaign, Ducey toed the line in embracing Trump.
Completely ignoring the president could have spurned conservative voters, but enthusiastically embracing Trump could have lost Ducey support from moderate Republicans and Democrats who crossed party lines to vote for him.
By the time the president came to Arizona in a last-ditch attempt to drum up support for McSally, polling showed Ducey leading Garcia by double digits — making the Trump factor less of a concern for the incumbent governor.
But throughout his campaign, Garcia often tried to compare Ducey to the president — a strategy employed by Democrats across the country during last year’s election cycle.
In the past, the Governor’s Office has touted Ducey’s events with the president.
In August of last year, Ducey’s office sent out a press release announcing he would join Trump at the White House for an event honoring border patrol agents. In May 2018, Ducey dined at the White House with Trump and other Republican governors in what was a highly publicized event.