Updated: March 13, 2014, 10:39 AM
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) announced Wednesday that she would not seek a third term in office, ending a tenure that included falsely very publicly wagging her finger in President Barack Obama’s face (to the delight of tea partiers everywhere) to later bucking Arizona conservatives and pushing to expand Medicaid through Obamacare. It’s been an interesting tenure but, as Brewer said, “there does come a time to pass the torch of leadership.”
Fortunately, the Arizona gubernatorial field has its share of interesting characters that could succeed Brewer. Polling has also shown a wide open field. Here’s a guide to the crowded field of candidates running to be the next governor of Arizona:
TPM has kept an eye on Ken Bennett, one of the perceived frontrunners in the GOP field, for a while now. The Arizona secretary of State who’s dabbled in birtherism announced his candidacy for governor in November. Bennett was actually made to apologize to the state for his flirtation with the idea that Obama wasn’t a naturally born American citizen. TPM has also noted that Bennett has been on the payroll of a major funder of the outside conservative group FreedomWorks. But even Bennett was one of the gubernatorial candidates who came out against Senate Bill 1062, which would have allowed businesses to refuse to serve gay couples because of religious objections.
Ducey, Arizona’s State Treasurer and former CEO of Coldstone Creamery, has been called a rising star within the Republican Party. He’s considered one of the strongest candidates in the GOP field. In February, Ducey’s campaign was accused of violating campaign finance rules for how the treasurer was using Facebook to fight a measure to increase Arizona’s sale’s tax. The complaint was soon dismissed. Democrats in the state called on Ducey to fire his policy adviser given her position as president of the Arizona think tank that helped craft S.B. 1062. Ducey has also been able to raise the most money of any of the candidates in the race.
Christine Jones, a former executive of GoDaddy.com, is one of the more colorful characters in the GOP primary field. TPM readers will recall Jones’ bizarre serenading of Maricopa Sheriff Joe Arpaio at a fundraiser in 2013. Reporting on that night also caught Jones botching basic facts on geography and saying she didn’t know about the nationally famous immigration sweeps conducted by Arpaio’s office. Jones, like some of her competitors in the primary, opposed S.B. 1062. Jones has described herself as an “unapologetic conservative” and unlike Brewer, she said she would not have pushed for a Medicaid expansion. Jones released a tribute video to Brewer the same day the governor announced she wouldn’t run again.
State Sen. Al Melvin has taken pains to not follow the pack in the primary. In December Melvin had to apologize after misattributing quotes on class warfare to Abraham Lincoln. On S.B. 1062, Melvin broke with some of the other gubernatorial candidates and actually voted for the proposal. He said the bill wasn’t meant to discriminate against gays but rather protect religious freedom. He also said in that interview that he’d never witnessed discrimination in the state.
Riggs is a former congressman from California. His claim to fame during that stint was as being part of the Gang of Seven that helped reveal a House Banking Scandal. He moved to Arizona in 2002 and floated running for governor in 2005 before realizing he could not meet the five-year residency requirement. Riggs has criticized Ducey and Bennett for not opposing Brewer’s budget, which Riggs argues is really just “smoke and mirrors.”
Former Mesa Mayor Scott Smith is considered the most moderate candidate in the Republican gubernatorial field. To run for governor, Smith will step down as president of the United Conference of Mayors. In an interview with TPM in 2013 Smith also said he didn’t think former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s (I) Mayors Against Illegal Guns was an effective organization for reducing gun violence. That’s despite him saying that there needs to be an honest public discussion on guns. Smith also opposed S.B. 1062.
Thomas announced his candidacy for governor in August and at his announcement he was met by supporters and opponents of Sheriff Arpaio, who Thomas was a close ally of as a prosecutor As TPM has reported, Thomas was disbarred for abusing his powers as prosecutor in targeting his political opponents. Thomas has strong appeal among hard-right voters in the state. Thomas supported S.B. 1062.
On the Democratic side, former Arizona Board of Regents chairman Fred DuVal seems to be the most likely candidate to win the nomination. During the debate over SB 1062, DuVal very clearly said that if he were governor he would have stopped the bill before it passed the state legislature. Duval has been criticized as being a rather milquetoast candidate, a jab which he responded to by releasing a photo of himself as The Most Interesting Man Alive.
(No photo was available)
Marine Corps. veteran Cavanaugh doesn’t stand out Democratic primary. He’s the only other declared candidate in the race but doesn’t seem to have much campaign infrastructure. He ran for governor as a libertarian in 2010.
Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly stated that Smith has resigned from the U.S. conference of mayors. In fact he intends to resign. This story also incorrectly said that Democrats called on Ducey to fire his campaign manager instead of his policy adviser. We regret the errors.