by Jim Nintzel
Here's a weird moment in the crowded Republican primary for governor: Earlier this week, as Arizona Treasurer Doug Ducey was facing new questions about the sale of the Cold Stone Creamery company he had built, he made a phone call to an attorney who had worked on a legal dispute regarding Ducey’s sale of the Cold Stone franchise parent to a company called Kahana with a potentially lucrative offer.
Yvonne Wingett Sanchez has this detail in a complex story that broke yesterday:
It arose again Wednesday in an e-mail sent by an attorney whose firm represented Kahala. Attorney Leo Beus wrote to Ducey's attorney, Smith and Jones that he had been asked about the "Cold Stone arbitration with Kahala and the related depositions," which put him in an "uncomfortable position because we are not at liberty to discuss the pleadings, depositions or documents related to the arbitration."If you haven’t already, you should read Sanchez’s entire story here and the transcript of the quid-pro-quo-ish voice mail here. Sanchez gives plenty of context about the Kahana sale, but the takeaway is that both Smith and attorney Christine Jones are saying that Ducey ended up in arbitration in the wake of Cold Stone’s sale to Kahana and he should release legal documents related to the dispute.
Beus added that Ducey had phoned him Tuesday — two days after the debate aired — and left a voice mail "inviting me to work with him in his administration when he becomes governor. This is the first contact I have ever had with Doug."
Team Ducey has released a statement to the Republic saying that it was just a run-of-the-mill fundraising call—a strategy that could yield terrific stories of patronage during the future Ducey administration.
Sanchez’s story hits as Ducey tries to run out the clock on six-way race that will be decided in the Aug. 26 primary. Early voting started yesterday and most polls have shown Ducey in a tight race with attorney and political rooke Christine Jones, but we hear some rumblings that former Mesa mayor Scott Smith might be gaining ground as Ducey and Jones pound each other with negative ads. You’ll know that’s true if Jones and Ducey turn their air war Smith’s direction.
The Kahala sale came up obliquely toward the end of a debate here in Tucson on Wednesday night that featured Jones, Smith, Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett, former California congressman Frank Riggs, and disbarred attorney Andrew Thomas. Smith used a chance to ask another candidate a question into a dig at Ducey.
“Well, unfortunately, my question is for the person who’s not in the room tonight,” Smith said, generating big laughs from the crowd at PCC West’s Proscenium Theatre.
Smith accused Ducey of being “untruthful” in his answer about the Kahala sale and said he’d been hoping to ask Ducey a follow up question, but Ducey had “skipped the last two forums, apparently not wishing to answer the follow up question that we have.”
Smith said that “in light of that,” he would ask Bennett: “How important is integrity in holding office?”
Bennett extoled the virtues of integrity—“it’s the ultimate character trait that you need”—and then Smith, who had a 30-second rebuttal, said it was disappointing that Ducey “only wants one side of the story told and refuses to discuss the other side.”
After the debate, Smith stepped up his criticism of Ducey.
“He’s dodging the question,” Smith said. “We said, just release the report. Don’t deny it happened. … What we have here with the Ducey campaign is a pattern. Ducey got sued by his franchisees. People can sue, but they accused him of misrepresenting them, of deceiving them. He sold his company. The people he sold it to accused him of deceiving them. I think he’s been deceptive with the dark money, saying he had no connection with it. We all know that he and Sean Noble and the others have a connection. … There’s a pattern here and I think that’s what Doug Ducey needs to answer for. Why do you feel a need to be deceptive?”