Governor’s Race

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Mesa Mayor Scott Smith entered the governor’s race today and instantly becomes one of the top republican contenders. Political consultant Jay Thorne will discuss the Arizona governor’s race.

Ted Simons: Coming up next on "Arizona Horizon," Mesa Mayor Scott Smith makes it official He is running for governor. We'll hear about a lawsuit filed against Arizona's law restricting same-sex marriage. And ADOT will join us for an update on valley freeway construction. Those stories next on "Arizona Horizon."

Narrator: "Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the friends of , members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Mesa mayor Scott Smith today announced that he is running for governor, a move that changes the dynamics of an already crowded field of republican candidates. Here to talk about those dynamics is political consultant Jay Thorne. Good to see you again. Thanks for joining us. Surprised at this announcement at all?
Jay Thorne: There well there were some on-again, off-again speculations about this and as Ducey spent most of last year raising a great deal of money, there was speculation that mayor Smith may decide not to run but it wasn't really a surprise that he decided to. He's well positioned, he's a little bit more to the center than some of the candidates who are out there right now. He has a very different kind of resume. So not really a surprise but a little bit perhaps.
Ted Simons: Who is Scott Smith? Talk about his resume.
Jay Thorne: Well, he has been a very successful mayor for the third largest city in the state of Arizona, mesa. He has been bullish on economic development. He has been moderate and has been a support of governor brewer on things like proposition 100 , which raised taxes for a short period of time and on the Medicaid package that some Republicans opposed last year, he was there standing next to her supporting her on that. But he has rebuilt and he would say put the swagger back into the city of mesa. He has done an extraordinary job there with economic development. He's been a strong proponent of solar energy. So some things that are maybe a little bit more centrist than some of the Republicans that are in the race.
Ted Simons: So as far as the conservative moderate scale, he as you say fits a little bit more to the center than any or all of those candidates?
Jay Thorne: I would say probably all. And it's a function in part of being a mayor. Being a mayor is just a different kind of job than being state treasurer or secretary of state or a member of the legislature. You have budgets to meet that you are as the CEO of your city responsible for. There's a different position of being where the rubber meets the road. When you say centrist, it's a reflection of having to be more pragmatic in his role of mayor. I think he would say that he's very conservative.
Ted Simons: So is that his -- is that what he offers as far as a difference to the other candidates?

Jay Thorne: That's part of it. I think he would probably tell us that he has a different perspective, that he has a level of energy and enthusiasm and not state government thinking that he brings to the equation that makes him a different kind of candidate.

Ted Simons: Where will his support come from?

Jay Thorne: Well, he should be strong in the east valley. Obviously, as I said mesa, third largest city in the state. He should be strong there. Again, I don't think he's going to concede the conservative wing of the Republican party by any stretch. The most popular Republican I would argue in the state today is governor Brewer and what she decides to do, whether she decides to weigh in may have some bearing on this and as I said he's been a pretty staunch supporter of hers and there is still this small percentage chance that she ends up in the race because I'm not entirely sure she's given up that prospect herself.

Ted Simons: Let's say that she does not jump in. I have a funny feeling that hes he had talked to the governor a little bit here beforehand so it would be surprising a little bit if she were to go ahead.

Jay Thorne: That would be a surprise.

Ted Simons: In a variety of ways. Can he win a Republican primary?

Jay Thorne: I think he can win a Republican primary. In a race that is as divided with as many candidates that is that one has today and I'm not sure all of those candidates will be there by the time we get to July, it's about identifying your supporters and turning them out. It becomes a turnout game. And so he might be trying to expand some of the typical off-presidential year Republican primary base voters, but I do think he has a chance to win.

Ted Simons: With that in mind, can he rally the troops? If it is a tough primary and he does win, does he have enough do you think in the Republican circles to rally the troops in the general?

Jay Thorne: Absolutely. I think, you know, as we play with these scenarios, if he were to emerge from that primary, I think Republicans would rally around him rather strongly. If on the other hand, he makes it close but fails and it becomes a center versus right debate within that primary, that may end up helping what is now the lone democrat in the race, Fred DuVal. If Scott Smith were to win that primary, he would be a very formidable candidate in the general election.

Ted Simons: Would he be more formidable than those who lean farther right?

Jay Thorne: He would probably have a better chance of reaching independent and moderate Republican voters but it really depends on what the tone and tenor of the Republican primary turns out to be and we don't know what that looks like yet.

Ted Simons: Compare Scott Smith with a Fred DuVal because some see some similarities there and others say no, no, they're very different. What do you see?

Jay Thorne: They're very different. Fred is -- he has a track record of experience in government. He worked -- we've elected two democrats in Arizona as governor in the last years. Bruce babbit, Janet Napolitano. It was very bipartisan. He went on to serve as a regent. He has some experience in government but more experience really outside of it. Scott Smith again as being a mayor of the third largest city in the state of Arizona has been responsible for everything from the streets getting repaired to jobs to education within the city of mesa. He's been I think bipartisan in his approach to things. He's been a very happy, gregarious, charming fellow who's gotten along with everyone. So I think that race would be maybe more congenial than some of the other lineups might be but I think it would be close and I think it would be interesting, and I think the state would be really well served by it.

Ted Simons: Our debate wouldn't as fun.

Jay Thorne: It probably would be equally fun.

Ted Simons: Last question. They talk about state recognition and people like a Doug Ducey who hold state office, ken Bennett who holds state office, that that really does help because your name has been out there throughout the entire state. Obviously, Scott Smith very focused in mesa. Does that really make that much of a difference?

Jay Thorne: I think it makes a little bit of difference, and I think it certainly makes somewhat of a difference in a primary. Doug Ducey's traveled around the state and he's been on the ballot in every single county of the state. Scott Smith has not. Ducey has a million dollars in the bank, Scott Smith is just getting started. I do think it makes somewhat of a difference. Probably more about organization and structure than just name I.D.

Ted Simons: Yeah. Jay, good stuff, thanks for joining us

Jay Thorne:Political Consultant;

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