Former Nogales Mayor Marco Lopez launched his bid for governor with a request to “join us” — and a highly partisan jab at Republicans.
Lopez, 42, currently the president of Internmestic Partners, becomes the first entry into what is expected to be a crowded race. Incumbent Doug Ducey has to leave office at the end of 2022 due to term limits.
He told Capitol Media Services that his experience, in local, state and national government and, more recently, as a business owner, makes him uniquely suited to become the state’s next chief executive.
“The last nine years I’ve spent creating jobs in the private sector,” Lopez said. He said average Arizonans are worried about the next 10 years.
“And politicians, unfortunately, focus on four years and the next election cycle,” Lopez said.
But he is much more specific in his attacks on the people who are now running the state.
In polished videos in English and Spanish shows Gov. Doug Ducey sitting down with President Trump at a photo op at the White House where the president touted the amount of federal cash going to the state for Covid relief.
“Let’s face it: State leaders failed us even as the coronavirus cost us lives and hammered our economy,” Lopez said.
And he was even less charitable about his feelings about the Republican-controlled legislature.
“Our legislature is run by extremists, promoting bizarre conspiracy theories instead of actually getting things done for you,” Lopez said in his video.
The slap, he said, was intentional.
“You know there’s people who still refuse to acknowledge the election results were fair and balanced,” Lopez said.
“Arizonans have moved on and are now worried how to get their kids to school and what jobs they’re going to have available after this pandemic eases up,” he continued. “They’re not worried about what’s happening there at the Capitol with all these conspiracy theories.”
Lopez said he has long roots in Santa Cruz County where his parents had lived for years.
But he actually was born across the border in Nogales, Sonora.
“On the day that I was ready to be born, my mom went from our homes in Nogales, Ariz., crossed into Nogales, Son., gave birth to me in a private clinic there that was the same place that my older sister was born in,” Lopez explained. “And the next day I was back home.”
But being born in Mexico — and with his parents having only status as permanent legal residents — he had to get naturalized in 1996.
At age 22, Lopez was elected mayor of Nogales where he grew up.
He left that job after then-Gov. Janet Napolitano appointed him in 2003 to head the Arizona-Mexico Commission, later going on to be director of the Arizona Department of Commerce.
When Napolitano resigned to become director of the Department of Homeland Security in the Obama administration she took Lopez along where he became chief of staff of Customs and Border Protection.
But his political experience goes back even farther, to when he was part of the advance team when Al Gore was running for president in 2000.
Lopez, now 42, founded Intermestic Partners in 2011. He said it works with “companies that are looking to invest and grow in the U.S.”
He also is an advisor to Carlos Slim and the foundation that operates in the name of the Mexican billionaire which is involved in providing broadband access to homes. He said that the foundation is on target for connecting 890,000 households throughout the country, including about 11,000 in Arizona.
One issue for all candidates, including Lopez, is going to be funding. It took Ducey as an incumbent more than $12 million to get re-elected in 2018, including $8 million funneled into the campaign by the Republican Governors Association.
Lopez declined to detail his budget but said he intends to seek donations rather than try to self-fund his campaign. But he also acknowledged he does not have high name ID in Arizona, saying he hopes to boost that by talking with voters throughout the state
No one else has formally announced for the post that Ducey has to vacate at the end of 2022 due to term limits.
Other possible Democrat contenders include Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and Greg Stanton, a former Phoenix mayor now serving in Congress.
Potential Republican contenders including Attorney General Mark Brnovich, Treasurer Kimberly Yee, developer Karrin Taylor Robson, Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Chucri, and Kirk Adams, a former chief of staff for Ducey.
But the situation is more complicated for Republicans.
First, they also need to field someone to run that year against newly elected Sen. Mark Kelly. The Democrat is completing the last two years of the term that originally belonged to John McCain and will have to seek his own six-year term at that point.
Second, the party has to decide whether to endorse a traditional business-friendly Republican like Ducey or find someone more aligned with Trump who has promised to take an active role in endorsing candidates in Republican primaries in 2022.