PHOENIX -- Doug Ducey, the state’s treasurer and former chief executive of an international chain of ice cream parlors, defeated five opponents in the Republican primary for governor Tuesday, The Associated Press reported. His victory reaffirms the hold of the Republican Party’s conservative establishment on Arizona politics despite a record turnout among independents, a more centrist constituency that makes up the largest voting bloc in the state.
Ducey amassed a diverse group of supporters, including Tea Party members, Chamber of Commerce leaders and even retired pitcher Randy Johnson, a local legend of sorts for his role in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ only World Series title, in 2001.
He has argued that his business experience has readied him to lead the state. On the campaign trail, he courted voters over ice cream and liked to say that he helped build the chain, Cold Stone Creamery, from a local company into an international business “without tax breaks for chocolate-dipped cones.”
He is staunchly anti-abortion and pledged to use “fencing, satellites, guardsmen, more police and prosecutors” to secure the border.
His Democratic rival in November is Fred DuVal, a former member of the state’s Board of Regents and deputy director of intergovernmental affairs under President Bill Clinton. DuVal had no opposition in the primaries.
In another key primary race in Arizona, Mark Brnovich, a former prosecutor and state gaming director, defeated Tom Horne, the incumbent, to become the Republican Party’s nominee for attorney general. Horne, a Harvard-educated lawyer who was the driving force behind the push to require proof of citizenship for people registering to vote in Arizona, had been besieged by allegations of campaign finance improprieties over the use of his office and workers in his campaign.
Voters also cast ballots in nine congressional races and, in at least most of them, the results were not unexpected.
In the 2nd Congressional District, based in Tucson, Martha McSally, a retired Air Force colonel, handily won the Republican nomination. Her victory sets the stage for a rematch of 2012, when she lost to Ron Barber, a Democrat, by less than 1 percentage point. An aide to former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, Barber was picked to run for her seat when she was forced to resign after she was wounded in a mass shooting at a political event in 2011.
In the 7th Congressional District, a heavily Hispanic Democratic stronghold in Phoenix, voters chose Ruben Gallego to replace U.S. Rep. Ed Pastor, who is retiring in December after 11 terms in Congress. Gallego, an Iraq War veteran and former state legislator, defeated Mary Rose Wilcox, a former Maricopa County supervisor and longtime activist, despite Pastor’s endorsement of her. There were no Republicans running in the primary.
Andy Tobin, the speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives, remained locked in a surprisingly tight race against two lesser-known opponents for the Republican nomination in the 1st Congressional District, in northern Arizona - Adam Kwansman, a state legislator, and Gary Kiehne, a millionaire rancher who self-financed his campaign. With 73 percent of the precincts reporting, Kiehne was ahead of Tobin by 407 votes.
Republicans were banking on McSally and Tobin to regain control of the state’s congressional delegation, where Democrats hold five of the nine seats. An analysis by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report lists both contests as “tossups” in the general election.
The winner in the 1st Congressional District will face the Democratic incumbent, Ann Kirkpatrick, who faced no primary opponent.
With 83 percent of the precincts reporting, Ducey was ahead with 37.3 percent of the vote, or about 59,000 more votes than his closest rival, Scott Smith, who had 22.4 percent.
Smith, the former mayor of Mesa, was considered the most moderate among the Republicans running for governor. He focused his campaign less on border security, a prime theme for his opponents, and more on the economy, which is still suffering from the aftereffects of the recession. Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, lent him her endorsement and financial support, in part because he backed her decision to expand Medicaid coverage, a move opposed by most Republicans in the state because of its perceived connection to President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.
“I’ve run hard in the primary against able and worthy opponents,” Ducey told supporters at his victory party at a downtown Phoenix hotel on Tuesday, Brewer by his side. “I’ll keep running as your nominee and with the honor of your support, we will win the election for governor.”