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Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the current frontrunner in the GOP primary:

Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Ducey is praising the US Supreme Court's decision on the Hobby Lobby case, calling it a "win for religious freedom," even though he said just a few months ago that he would, as governor, veto an Arizona measure with the same underlying principles.

We've got a call into Ducey's campaign for comment.

A controversial 5-4 decision by the SCOTUS allows corporations (i.e., Hobby Lobby, et al) to deny contraception in employee health plans based on the owners' "closely held religious beliefs" against abortion.

On June 30, Ducey tweeted: "Today's #SCOTUS decision is a win for religious freedom and yet another blow to #Obamacare."

In February, he tweeted: "If I were governor, that I would veto SB 1062."

And Cathi Herrod, the architect of SB 1062 and a Ducey supporter, is the first to point out that the proposed state law and the federal case are "the exact same thing."

Democratic Party leaders blast Ducey, who is "locked into a contentious Republican primary for Governor," for "dog whistling" the issue.

Ducey is running against fellow Republicans Secretary of State Ken Bennett, Attorney Christine Jones, a Go Daddy consultant, disgraced and disbarred former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, former Mesa mayor Scott Smith and former Congressman Frank Riggs.

Ducey also told the Arizona Daily Star that "the religious liberty issues that SB 1062 attempts to address are legitimate ones, and I believe there is a way to draft language that would address the concerns of everyone involved and avoid the acrimony and notoriety that have accompanied this bill's passage. I would veto SB 1062, but would then bring together all the interested parties before this legislative session adjourns to forge consensus on acceptable language protecting religious liberty."

A couple days later, after Governor Jan Brewer vetoed the bill, Ducey published this statement on his campaign website: "Now that Gov. Brewer has deliberated and made her decision on SB 1062, it's time to refocus on the issues that I'm hearing most about from voters around the state -- how to get back to a full-strength economy and create jobs."

But now, Ducey sees a different opportunity.

DJ Quinlan, executive director of the Arizona Democratic Party, says in a statement this morning that Ducey is "dog whistling" the issue.

"After saying he would veto SB 1062, he promised to work to bring it back again," Quinlan says. "Maybe all those ice cream socials with his party's extremists gave Doug brain freeze or it's just another example of what we see coming from today's extreme wing of Arizona Republicans - and what Barry Goldwater warned about - their relentless attempts to restrict individual rights based upon their own religious beliefs."

So, if the former Cold Stone Creamy executive would veto SB 1062 and it shares the "exact" same principles as the Hobby Lobby case, why is he praising the SCOTUS' decision? - Phoenix New Times, 7/2/14

Again, according to the most recent polling from GOP and conservative groups, Ducey is now the frontrunner in the race.  Here's the poll from the conservative group, Veterans For a Strong America:

Doug Ducey, center, Republican candidate for Arizona state treasurer, talks with supporters and volunteers at McCain campaign headquarters Thursday, Aug. 26, 2010 in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
The poll shows that Veterans for Strong America has had an impact on the Arizona governor’s race by driving up candidate Christine Jones negatives.  VSA ran a statewide television ad criticizing Jones for praising Hillary Clinton after the Benghazi terrorist attack, and as a result Jones now has the highest negatives of any other top tier candidate for Governor.  It also gives her the lowest net positive rating of the major candidates.
                                Fav                Unfav          Net Positive
Ducey                              48%                   12%                    36%
Bennett                           28%                      9%                    19%
Smith                               25%                    13%                    12%
Jones                               28%                    18%                    10%

The head-to-head results in the Arizona Governor’s race show that Doug Ducey has a strong lead over the rest of the field.

Doug Ducey               33%
Christine Jones           15%
Scott Smith                14%
Ken Bennett               12%
Andy Thomas              3%
Frank Riggs                 2%
Undecided                  22%

The poll also shows that 98% of GOP primary voters believe the VA scandal is a very serious or somewhat serious issue and 80% blame Obama or his administration for the problem, while 16% blame the local VA hospitals.

Now given that right-wing groups' track record is less than stellar when it comes to their accuracy in polling but Ducey's fellow GOP opponents are taking him seriously:

Doug Ducey is very much hanging his aspirations to become Arizona’s next governor on his tenure as CEO of Cold Stone Creamery.

At the same time, Ducey’s Republican primary rivals are hoping to chip away at those Cold Stone credentials. They point to some franchise stores that failed or had other problems including defaults on loans. Those include defaults on U.S. Small Business Administration loans.

Ducey was elected Arizona Treasurer in 2010 but he’s touting himself as the “conservative ice cream guy” in his television commercials and asking voters to judge him based on his CEO tenure.

Ducey served as CEO and principal of the Scottsdale-based ice cream franchise business between 1996 to 2007.

“Doug's success in taking an Arizona small business and growing it into a national success story is a key part of our campaign,” said Ducey spokeswoman Melissa Delaney.

“Arizona's economy isn't recovering as fast as we'd like. It would be positive to have a governor who knows firsthand the struggles of meeting a payroll and growing a company,” she said.

His rivals in the crowded Republican primary field for governor also are focusing on Ducey’s business tenure.

“We agree with Doug that he should be judged by the company he keeps and his record at Cold Stone Creamery,” said Drew Sexton, spokesman for former Mesa Mayor Scott Smith, who is among those seeking the Republican gubernatorial nomination.

Sexton wants voters to consider Cold Stone franchises that failed, defaulted on loans and faced tax liens.

Those things happen in a franchise industry where franchisees sometimes struggle with opening new businesses and costs including what they have to pay to the franchisor.

Between 2001 and 2011, 42 percent of Cold Stone franchises receiving U.S. Small Business Administration loans defaulted, according to Blue MauMau Inc., a franchise research group and newsletter.

That was 107 th highest default rate among the 508 largest U.S. franchise businesses, according to the Blue MauMau. Kahala Corp. acquired Cold Stone in 2008

Frank Riggs, a former California congressman who is also running for governor, said Cold Stone’s record deserves scrutiny, as does the fact that the ice cream franchise chain had substantial SBA loan default rates during Ducey’s tenure. - Phoenix Business Journal, 7/4/14

Some of Ducey's opponents are doubling down in trying to take him down:

Christine Jones has pumped about $2.1 million of her own money into her bid to become Arizona’s next governor.

Jones, former general counsel for Web domain company GoDaddy, reported personal loans to her own campaign of $1.6 million. That is on top of previous personal money she put into the Republican primary, according to state campaign finance documents.

Arizona Treasurer Doug Ducey, former CEO of Cold Stone Creamery, has raised $1.6 million for the GOP primary. Like Jones, Ducey has personal wealth, but he has not put personal money into the governor’s race.

Former Mesa mayor and home-building executive Scott Smith has raised nearly $883,000 for the primary, including a $150,000 personal contribution. Smith also has raised $174,100 toward the general election campaign in case he gets through the crowded GOP primary.

Ducey’s contributors include Meritage Homes CEO Steve Hilton, El Dorado Holdings Chairman Michael Ingram, former Gov. Fife Symington, Snell & Wilmer Chairman John Bouma, and former Phoenix Suns and Arizona Diamondbacks owner Jerry Colangelo.

Jones' backers include Ingram; business motivational author Harvey Mackay; Robson Communities CEO Edward Robson; and Pete Bolton, executive vice president of real estate brokerage Newmark Grubb Knight Frank.

Smith’s real estate and business supporters include DMB Associates executives Drew Brown, Mark Sklar, Karrin Taylor and Andrew Beams; Maracay Homes CEO Andrew Warren; former Sundt Construction CEO Doug Pruitt; Able Engineering CEO Lee Benson; Fulton Homes Chairman Ira Fulton; Turf Paradise owner Jerry Simms; and Plaza Cos. CEO Sharon Harper. - Phoenix Business Journal, 7/1/14

Money is going to be a factor, especially since Ducey also has a big contributor to his campaign:

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, left, arrives for a business roundtable at a local car dealership, with Jim Click, Jr., President of Jim Click Automotive Team, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2011, in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
A major auto dealer has become a prime force in trying to ensure that Doug Ducey is the Republican nominee for governor — and that Christine Jones is not.

Jim Click, who owns a string of Southern Arizona dealerships, gave $100,000 to the Conservative Leadership for Arizona campaign committee. That committee has spent $172,350 on commercials and other help for Ducey, and another $34,298 in media attacking Jones.

State campaign finance reports filed this week cover only through the end of May. But the organization, as required by law, has filed special reports in the interim showing it is continuing to spend heavily to affect the outcome of the Aug. 26 GOP primary.

Click did not return messages seeking comment about his involvement in the race.

The official report of outside funds creeping into the gubernatorial race may not reflect all of the money that is flowing.

Separately, a group called Veterans for a Strong America has been running TV ads attacking Jones and linking her to the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that left the U.S. ambassador and three others dead.

That is based on a blog post that Jones made at the beginning of last year that predicted that “Americans, regardless of party affiliation or political involvement, will begin to realize what an effective Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was.” - Arizona Daily Star, 7/2/14

The outside money could play a key role in determining who wins the primary:

All that outside spending could make the difference in a race where Ducey and Jones have about equal amounts of funds to spend on their own.

The latest campaign finance reports show Ducey has collected slightly more than $2 million as of the May 31 cutoff and had spent about half of that by that point.

By contrast, Jones listed total contributions at more than $2.3 million, having spent more than $1.9 million of that.

The big difference, though, is the source: All but about $200,000 of Jones’ money came from her own wallet. Ducey, by contrast, listed just $22,245 in personal and family donations.

Scott Smith also reached into his own pocket at the last minute, writing himself a $150,000 check so that his report could show his donations topped $1 million by the filing deadline. But Smith, who only recently started TV ads, had spent less than $200,000 of that by the end of the reporting period.

But Smith, like Jones, also is being attacked by outside money. A group called the 60 Plus Association already has put nearly $81,000 into ads attacking Smith.

And that may not be all of it.

In a complaint filed Tuesday with state election officials, an attorney representing Smith contends yet another organization, the Legacy Foundation Action Fund, has used spending money to attack his client.

Kory Langhofer said that group did opposition research against Smith while he was still mayor of Mesa and then ran ads attacking him shortly before Smith resigned. Those ads specifically linked Smith, through his role as president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, to support of policies by President Obama.

Potentially more significant, Langhofer said there are links between the consultants used by the Legacy Foundation and Ducey, links he said show illegal coordination between the groups.

A spokeswoman for Ducey called the claim “meritless.”

Ken Bennett and Andrew Thomas have qualified for public funding of $753,616 for the Republican primary, plus any seed money they raised initially.

Lone Democrat Fred DuVal reported $1.7 million in donations, with just $610,000 in expenses. - Arizona Daily Sun, 7/2/14

And this is really becoming one expensive primary:

The Republican field in the Aug. 26 primary also includes former U.S. Rep. Frank Riggs, who brought in $212,000, including a $170,000 personal loan. Secretary of State Ken Bennett and former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas each have been awarded $754,000 in public financing.

Cash is an important factor because it allows candidates to advertise and get their message to voters. Ducey, Jones and Smith have been running radio and television advertising for weeks, seeking to earn name recognition and support.

Candidates reported their fundraising for the first five months of the year on Monday. The reports don’t include money brought in during June. Some candidates pushed part of their contributions into their general election accounts, typically a sign that large individual contributions needed to be split to avoid exceeding fundraising limits.

Jones trailed Smith and Ducey by a wide margin in individual contributions, collecting $92,613.

That’s not surprising to campaign professionals who have expected her to run a mainly self-funded campaign.

“What it shows you is that the fundraising ground game is clearly being championed by Scott Smith and Doug Ducey,” said Doug Cole, a longtime political consultant who is not representing any of the campaigns.

Running a campaign out of their own checkbook may allow candidates to avoid fundraising, but it also can keep them from making strong connections with voters, Cole said.

“It’s has proven time and again that those that are successful in raising money from voters tend to be more successful at the ballot box,” Cole said Tuesday. “The simple reason is if someone is giving you money, no matter if it is $5 or $500, you’re invested in that person, you will show up and you will vote for that person.”

Anna Haberlein, Jones’ spokeswoman, declined to comment on the candidate’s apparent self-funding strategy.

“We will have the resources to be heard,” she said. - Mohave Valley Daily News, 7/2/14

And the race has one less nut contending:

Having pulled out of the race himself, state Sen. Al Melvin is supporting state Treasurer Doug Ducey for the Republican nomination for Arizona governor.

Melvin dropped out of the race June 23, citing his inability to collect enough contributions to win public funding for his campaign.

The Tucson-area legislator announced Thursday he's endorsing Ducey, whom Melvin called "the very best choice for conservative voters" in the Aug. 26 primary. - The Republic, 7/3/14

A lot is at stake here, especially when it comes to immigration reform and immigrants' civil rights.  This could turn into a sleeper race here and PPP showed that a match up between Ducey and Fred DuVal (D. AZ) would be competitive:

In hypothetical general election contests between Democratic candidate Fred DuVal (who has just 27% name recognition) and the Republican field, no candidate ever gets more than 40%. DuVal trails Scott Smith (39/33) and Ken Bennett (37/33) but leads the rest of the GOP hopefuls- it's 36/35 over Doug Ducey, 35/32 over John Molina, 36/32 over Frank Riggs, 37/33 over Christine Jones, 37/32 over Al Melvin, and 40/35 over Andrew Thomas. Overall the race has to be considered a toss up at this point. - PPP, 3/4/14
A lot can happen between now and the August 26th primary so we need to be ready.  Click here to donate and get involved with DuVal's campaign while the GOP continues to rip itself a part:

Originally posted to pdc on Sun Jul 06, 2014 at 10:31 AM PDT.

Also republished by The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party and Baja Arizona Kossacks.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (10+ / 0-)

    Funny Stuff at

    by poopdogcomedy on Sun Jul 06, 2014 at 10:31:46 AM PDT

  •  Not much recent reliable polling on AZ-GOV race (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I'll take that conservative Vets poll with a grain of salt. PPP hasn't polled the race since late Feb. I Goggled and couldn't find any better polls than you posted. My only TV is the Tucson local broadcast stations via antenna, so I bear the brunt of the political ads. Ducey started out strong with a bunch of ads, but Christine Jones has been catching up, apparently paid mostly by her own money. Jones ads are particularly annoying, she's standing with a group of supposed AZ voters and comes across as lecturing them like angry schoolmarm scolding her students. Ducey is mostly positive, portraying himself as the 'conservative ice cream guy', not even mentioning he's the current State Treasurer. Haven't seen any ads from Smith or Bennett, and the other guys are also rans. Duval is unopposed in the primary (which is Aug. 26 with early voting starting July 30), so he's saving his money for the general election.

    Jones would be absolutely terrible, she would make Jan Brewer look good. I think DuVal has a decent chance to win, folks are tired of Jan Brewer and Republican overreach. And Obama won't be on the ballot, he's not particularly popular even Ron Barber (CD02) out polled him by a dozen points.

    David Koch, a teacher and a Tea Partier sit down a table with a plate of a dozen cookies. Koch quickly stuffs 11 cookies in his pockets, leans to the bagger and says "watch out, the union thug will try to steal your cookie".

    by Dave in AZ on Sun Jul 06, 2014 at 12:28:16 PM PDT

  •  Ducey is running ads prainsing Wi Gov Walker... (0+ / 0-)

    promising if elected he will do all the "great things" for Az that Walker has done for Wi...

    At least he isn't lying; if we elect him we get what we deserve...

    A mind like a book, has to be open to function properly.

    by falconer520 on Sun Jul 06, 2014 at 03:19:44 PM PDT

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