For months, our GOP friends have been telling The Skinny that Arizona Treasurer Doug Ducey is the front-runner in next year's GOP gubernatorial primary.
Ducey, who built a fortune peddling Cold Stone Creamery franchises before making his political debut with the 2010 race for treasurer, can't formally announce that he's running for governor until January of next year without triggering what's left of the state's resign-to-run law. But he's established an exploratory campaign and he's clearly after the job.
Ducey has shown that he's willing to spend a lot of dough to win. In 2010, he dropped $600,000 of his own money (as well as more than $590,000 that he raised from individuals and political action committees) on his way to winning the Treasurer's Office.
Ducey continued to raise his profile last year by being the front man in the campaign against the one-cent-per-dollar sales-tax proposition that would have boosted funding for schools and roads.
Earlier this month, Ducey rolled out a committee that's advising him on policy issues. It's headed up by Jon Kyl, who stepped down from the U.S. Senate rather than seeking reelection last year.
Among those advising Ducey: Cathi Herrod of the Center for Arizona Policy, who has pushed the anti-gay and anti-abortion legislation at the Arizona Legislature; Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery; former Arizona Republican Party chairman Bob Fannin, who brings some old-school GOP credentials to the team; and Lea Marquez-Peterson, president of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, who worked with Ducey on the effort to torpedo the sales-tax prop last year.
Ducey is in a crowded GOP field that includes Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett, who has plenty of statewide name ID but can't match Ducey's wallet; Mesa Mayor Scott Smith, who has been quietly building his own campaign base in the East Valley; Hugh Hallman, a former Tempe mayor who was the first legitimate Republican candidate in the race; Al Melvin, the Southern Arizona state lawmaker who is apparently in the race to pick up a bundle of public dollars for a vanity campaign in which he's likely to drop a lot of the wisdom he develops while shaving; and Andrew Thomas, the disgraced former Maricopa County attorney whose jihad against other elected officials and judges ended with him being disbarred.
The real wild card in the race is Christine Jones, the former GoDaddy.com attorney who is making her political debut. We've yet to see what kind of campaign Jones will put together, but if she can play her cards right and present herself as an outsider, she just might find herself with a viable campaign as the only female in a pack of guys. And Jones is likely to be the only candidate who can spend as much of her own money as Ducey can.
If nothing else, the GOP primary promises to be one of the most entertaining gubernatorial contests we've seen in a long time.
SPEAKING OF NEXT YEAR'S RACES
Remember Wil Cardon, who spent roughly $9 million of his family's fortune to capture just 21 percent of the vote in the GOP Senate primary against Jeff Flake?
Cardon has resurfaced as a candidate for Secretary of State—and if last year's campaign was any indication, he's going to be dumping a whole bunch of money into the race.
He's already scared state lawmaker Steve Montenegro out of the contest. Montenegro endorsed Cardon earlier this month.
Other potential GOP candidates include state Sen. Michele Reagan and state Rep. Justin Pearce.
PLANNED PARENTHOOD WINS
Planned Parenthood Arizona won another round in court last week, when the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Arizona lawmakers could not ban Planned Parenthood from receiving federal healthcare funds that flow through the state.
The Ninth Circuit's ruling upheld a U.S. District Court judge's decision that the state can't block low-income women from seeking healthcare services for birth control, cancer screenings, STD treatment or any of the other services that Planned Parenthood provides.
A 2012 state law attempted to disqualify Planned Parenthood from providing those services for women on the state's AHCCCS program or other state-subsided healthcare programs.
Republican lawmakers attempted that particular maneuver by declaring that any healthcare organization that provides abortions could not be considered "qualified" to receive federal funds that flow through the state. Federal law says that states can't discriminate against "qualified" providers, so it was a semantic game aimed at financially hurting Planned Parenthood, which is already prohibited from receiving federal or state funds for abortion services.
Bryan Howard, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Arizona, called the court ruling "a victory for the thousands of low-income women who rely on Planned Parenthood for breast and cervical cancer screenings, birth control, and other basic health care. Politics should never interfere with a woman's access to vital services just because she is poor. Several courts had already spoken on this issue; we were confident the appeals court would rule in favor of our patients."
While attorneys for the state can appeal the Ninth Circuit's decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has already declined to hear an appeal of a similar law that was struck down in Indiana.