Democrats Hoping to Contest Arizona Governor’s Race

Republican Jan Brewer’s retirement creates a wide-open field of candidates looking to succeed her.

National Journal
Karyn Bruggeman
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Karyn Bruggeman
March 12, 2014, 12:54 p.m.

Ari­zona Gov. Jan Brew­er an­nounced Wed­nes­day that she will not seek a third term in of­fice, avoid­ing what would have been an up­hill battle against the state’s two-term lim­it. Brew­er made her an­nounce­ment at an ele­ment­ary school in Gl­end­ale.

“There does come a time to pass the torch of lead­er­ship,” and “after com­pet­ing this term in of­fice, I will be do­ing just that,” Brew­er said.

Her de­cision opens the way for the state’s first open gubernat­ori­al race since 2002, which is ex­pec­ted to be com­pet­it­ive. It’s a Re­pub­lic­an-friendly state whose grow­ing His­pan­ic pop­u­la­tion is giv­ing Demo­crats op­tim­ism about their long-term pro­spects.

The state has al­ways em­bod­ied a kind of free-spir­ited­ness and dis­reg­ard for out­side ex­pect­a­tions. Brew­er em­bod­ied that spir­it rather well. She was im­possible to eas­ily define and fre­quently bucked ex­pect­a­tions or easy cat­egor­iz­a­tion. She sup­por­ted tough policies on il­leg­al im­mig­ra­tion, but also sup­por­ted Medi­caid ex­pan­sion and ve­toed SB 1062, a con­tro­ver­sial meas­ure passed by the Le­gis­lature that would have al­lowed some busi­nesses to re­fuse ser­vice to gays and les­bi­ans on re­li­gious grounds.

The Re­pub­lic­an field to suc­ceed Brew­er is crowded. The three top con­tenders are state Treas­urer and former Cold Stone Cream­ery CEO Doug Ducey, Sec­ret­ary of State Ken Ben­nett, and Mesa May­or Scott Smith. Also on the list are GoDaddy ex­ec­ut­ive Christine Jones, former Cali­for­nia Rep. Frank Riggs, former Mari­copa County at­tor­ney An­drew Thomas, former state’s Medi­caid pro­gram dir­ect­or John Mo­lina, and state Sen. Al Melvin. Melvin and Thomas were the only two can­did­ates in the race to come out in sup­port of SB 1062.

The oth­er can­did­ates en­cour­aged Brew­er to veto the bill, giv­ing min­im­al lever­age to the Demo­crat­ic fron­trun­ner in the race, former Board of Re­gents mem­ber Fred DuVal, a first-time can­did­ate.

DuVal will be­ne­fit from a clear Demo­crat­ic field all the way through the state’s late primary date on Aug. 26. The fil­ing dead­line also isn’t un­til May 28. Any strag­glers who waited for Brew­er to bow out still have time to jump in.

Smith and Ben­nett are both Mor­mon, which could split that vote and help Ducey, a wealthy busi­ness­man. Ducey re­por­ted rais­ing more than $1 mil­lion at the start of the year. Smith is mod­er­ate and pop­u­lar in the Phoenix metro area, but he faces an up­hill slog as a may­or who doesn’t have the statewide cam­paign ex­per­i­ence of Ducey or Ben­nett.

Brew­er’s re­tire­ment means that, for the first time since 1997, Ari­zona will likely have a male gov­ernor. After Re­pub­lic­an Fife Sym­ing­ton resigned amid a scan­dal in 1997, he was suc­ceeded by Re­pub­lic­an Jane Dee Hull, Demo­crat Janet Na­pol­it­ano, and then Brew­er. An­oth­er wo­man, Rose Mof­ford, also pre­ceded Sym­ing­ton in of­fice from 1988 to 1991.

It’s not clear where Brew­er can go from here, des­pite her sug­ges­tion that polit­ics isn’t over for her. Cue Brew­er 2016 spec­u­la­tion.

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