Governor’s Race

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The race to be Arizona’s next governor continues to heat up, with former GoDaddy executive Christine Jones announcing her intentions to run as a republican. Arizona State University Pollster Bruce Merrill will talk about the race.

Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Arizona Horizon," I'm Ted Simons, the Governor's race continues to attract a sizeable field of candidates, especially on the Republican side. We recently took an early look at how the race is shaping up with ASU pollster Bruce Merrill.

Ted Simons: Always good to see you.

Bruce Merrill: Good to be here with you, Ted.

Ted Simons: Let's talk about the race on the Republican side, that's where the crowd seems to be.

Bruce Merrill: First, you're right. I don't see any really strong Democrats so far. Some could emerge. Fred DuVal has announced. I think it's really going to come out of the Republican side again this year. There's 100,000, more Republicans than Democrats. Democrats don't vote in the high percentages that Republicans do. I think the next governor is likely to be a Republican.

Ted Simons: With that in mind, let's go over some names and give me your opinion. The latest to emerge is the GoDaddy executive Christine Jones.

Bruce Merrill: She's a successful businessperson, a councilmember. She made some money when GoDaddy went public. I've met with her, she's committed to public service. I think she's more of a moderate than the other two, I think she's a long shot. But I think the scenario that may develop, the two top contenders are really Ken Bennett and Doug Ducey. They each have their own constituencies but they are both very conservative. If they really divide the Republican vote, get into a shouting match and beat each other up, there could be room, for the first time in a long time, for a moderate Republican like Christine to be a player at least.

Ted Simons: You mentioned Ken Bennett, Secretary of State, and Doug Ducey, the State Treasurer, as most likely at the top of the pile. What about a Hugh Hallman, an Andy Thomas? What about the possibility of a Scott Smith, Mayor of Mesa?

Bruce Merrill: Scott Smith is very popular as Hugh Hallman is in Tempe. But the reason that you have the advantage going to Ken Bennett and Doug Ducey, they have run statewide campaigns. They have some statewide name recognition. And somebody like a Hugh Hallman or somebody like a Scott Smith are well liked and well-known, but only in a tiny percentage of the state. In addition, Scott has recently been elected the chairman of cities and towns nationwide. That's a big deal. That's a very prestigious thing. I'm not sure he'd give that up at this particular time. I could be wrong.

Ted Simons: So we have Bennett, Ducey, Hallman, Thomas and Jones. The fact that she's an outsider, does that help in this day and age in Arizona?

Bruce Merrill: Well, it could. Campaigns really matter, how she presents herself, how she spins her strengths and her weaknesses. But it certainly is a scenario that is possible. I don't think there's any question about that.

Ted Simons: Okay. As far as Bennett and Ducey and Hallman and Thomas, how do they differentiate themselves from the others there? And again, how do you do that in the primary, a Republican primary, and then leap-frog over and hope that catches some Democrats?

Bruce Merrill: We've seen that play out not only in Arizona but in the national scenario. But to get through a primary you have to go so far to the right that you're out of the mainstream when the general election comes. In Arizona it's not quite that much of an issue, because the electorate is less of an issue among Republicans. Somebody like Hugh Hallman or Scott Smith, Andy Thomas, they are not really big players. You're talking about raising four or five million dollars. So right now it's kind of like a poker game. You have the money to sit at the table. The only three I see that have that kind of money, that kind of possibility, would be Doug Ducey, Ken Bennett, and Christine Jones as a possible outsider.

Ted Simons: And most of her money comes from Christine Jones.

Bruce Merrill: Well, I don't know.

Ted Simons: You would think so, at least.

Bruce Merrill: You would think so, I just don't know that much about her.

Ted Simons: Last question on the Republican side here, those are the top three or at least three to keep an eye on right now. Who is the establishment candidate? Is there a business candidate? The moneyed interests in the state, the power brokers, who do they want to see?

Bruce Merrill: Ken Bennett has a couple of advantages. He's kind of the darling of the Tea Party, the far right. These people are serious about voting, they go to the polls. Also he would probably get most of the LDS vote. Those are two pretty big blocks in the Republican Party in Arizona. Doug Ducey would be much more of the business, a little more moderate but still on the right. He's got marvelous credentials. He's a very successful businessman, he will have done well, I'm sure, as treasurer. So he's got some things going for him. He will be a little bit more of an establishment business-oriented candidate than Ken Bennett, who will be much more the philosophical ideological candidate.

Ted Simons: Interesting. Democratic side again, you mentioned the way the state is shaped up right now it's difficult to see a Democrat. We have Fred DuVal and Chad Campbell, the House Minority Leader. But then again, Campbell strikes me as a bit of the Hallman-Smith scenario. You know him in certain parts of the city, but maybe not in parts of the state?

Bruce Merrill: If you took any of those people you just mentioned, particularly Chad Campbell or Hugh Hallman or Scott Smith, I doubt they have 5% name I.D. statewide. That's a long way to go. If you don't have name I.D., you've got to pay for it. That's what makes them more of an outside possibility. You know, in the world we live in and the media society, anything can happen. I'm not predicting anything this early. But when you look at it right now I think the top two have to be Doug Ducey and Ken Bennett, and the possibility that Christine Jones, if they split the vote, comes in. I think that's where most of the play is going to be.

Ted Simons: What does a Fred DuVal have to do, since he's the only announced candidate and leading player on the Democratic side? What does he have to do, or is there anything he can do?

Bruce Merrill: Yeah, there are some things he and the Democrats can do. They have been pretty good about this recently. That's number one, they have to have a unified candidate. They can't have a contested primary where these guys are dividing the money. They have got to have one person they unify behind and get behind that person. Fred has impressive credentials, he's got strong roots in education. That's going to be a big issue in Arizona. He's a personable guy. It's just that structurally in Arizona, there's a lot more Republicans than Democrats. Republicans vote in much higher percentages. It's always going to be a challenge for the Democrats for a while in Arizona.

Ted Simons: Last question: What is Governor Brewer going to do? And if she does decide she wants to fight this and maybe run again, all bets are off?

Bruce Merrill: All bets are off, everything would change. There's been rumors she's been trying to do that legally, to see if there's any possible route that she could do that. But that would change everything, everything would be starting over. It would make it even more interesting. Every election in Arizona tends to interest me, this is going to be an interesting one.

Ted Simons: If it happens, we'll get you back on and handicap the whole thing over again.

Bruce Merrill: We'll do it.

Bruce Merrill:Pollster, ASU;

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