by Jim Nintzel
While they are still counting some votes around the state, Arizona Treasurer and former Cold Stone Creamery CEO Doug Ducey won big in yesterday's GOP gubernatorial primary, capturing 36 percent of the vote in a six-way contest. He was well ahead of second-place finisher Scott Smith, who nabbed 22 percent of the vote, and third-place finisher Christine Jones, who ended up with 16 percent of the vote. (The rest of the field: Secretary of State Ken Bennett won 12 percent, disbarred attorney Andrew Thomas got roughly 8 percent and former California Congressman Frank Riggs got about 4 percent.)
The win pits Ducey against Democrat Fred DuVal, Libertarian Barry Hess and Americans Elect candidate John Mealer.
As Republicans went to the polls to choose a nominee, the left-leaning Progress Now released a poll showing that Ducey and DuVal were entering a tight race. The Public Policy Polling survey showed that both Ducey had the support of 34 percent of self-identified likely voters, while DuVal had the support of 32 percent. When the pollsters asked undecided voters which way they were leaning, DuVal picked up 3 percent, while Ducey picked up 1 percent, putting the candidate into a dead heat at 35 percent each.
"Democrats have an opportunity in Arizona because voters are unhappy with Governor Brewer and the current direction of the state," wrote Public Policy Polling Tom Jensen in a polling memo. "An unpopular incumbent and a damaged Republican nominee are combining to make the Arizona governor’s office a great opportunity for a Democratic pick up this fall."
A relatively high 10 percent of the voters surveyed said they were supporting Hess, who has run for governor on the Libertarian ticket three times (2002, 2006, 2101), as well as taking stabs at the U.S. Senate (2000) and president of the United States (2008).
"The high level of support for Hess reflects the unusual amounts of support we’re finding for third party candidates across the country right now as voters are unhappy with both parties," Jensen noted.
Political junkies will find interesting points in the poll, but one key number: 41 percent of the voters have an unfavorable impression of Ducey, while just 26 percent have a favorable impression. That underwater ranking likely stems from the negative attacks against Ducey in the GOP primary.
Twenty percent of voters have a favor impression of DuVal, compared to 21 percent who view him unfavorably. That means about six in 10 voters don't have any opinion of him at all, which suggests that he hasn't yet made a big impression on Arizonans. While he's had decades of political experience, it has mostly been behind the scenes—working in Gov. Bruce Babbitt's administration in the 1980s and the Clinton White House in the ’90s, and appointed the Arizona Board of Regents in 2006.
"DuVal overcomes Arizona’s GOP party registration advantage due to a 16 point lead with independent voters," said Jensen. "Ducey is entering the general election badly damaged by the divisive primary campaign. Only 26 percent of voters have a favorable opinion of him to 41 percent who have a negative one. He’s at 17/57 with independents and a weak 43/24 even with Republican voters. DuVal remains largely undefined with 60 percent of voters having no opinion about him and those who do have one pretty evenly split."
DuVal is out to boost his name ID, launching his first TV commercial yesterday aimed at winning over moderate Republicans and independents. The ad features Republican Grant Woods, a former Arizona attorney general and onetime chair of Gov. Jan Brewer's campaign, talking about why he's supporting DuVal.
At the same time, the Republican Governor's Association is targeting DuVal with an ad criticizing the increases in tuition that occurred while he was on the Board of Regents:
Team DuVal responded earlier today with a statement from Republican Anne Mariucci, who served with DuVal on the Board of Regents:
I'm a Republican and I need to correct the record about this highly inaccurate political attack on Fred DuVal. I worked by Fred's side to save our public universities when the Arizona legislature decimated higher education during the Great Recession. They cut our public universities deeper than any state in the country, forcing tuition increases on Arizona students.
Fred DuVal actually kept the doors of education open to students from working and middle class families by increasing financial aid for students, developing more partnerships between community colleges and universities, and developing new campuses in rural Arizona.
Fred and I personally developed the formula requiring the universities to reduce costs before raising tuition, and Fred was always the loudest voice in the room to protect students from unnecessary tuition hikes. To cast him in any other light is just wrong.