Doug Ducey apparently walked away with the Republican nomination for governor Tuesday, beating out five other contenders.
And today he starts off today with the chore of uniting the party after a particularly divisive – and expensive – primary.
Despite an endorsement by Gov. Brewer, former Mesa Mayor Scott Smith trailed badly, having been vastly outspent by Ducey. But money was not the deciding issue, as former GoDaddy executive Christine Jones also came up short despite putting $5.3 million of her own cash into the race.
Secretary of State Ken Bennett, former California Congressman Frank Riggs and disbarred former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas were never really in the running, outspent by the other three.
The heated campaign – including sharp attacks on the other five contenders by Thomas – means Ducey starts with the backing of less than half the party faithful. It also means that all the nasty things each said about each other will have to be swallowed, with smiles all around, if the Republicans are to maintain their hold on the governor's office being vacated by Brewer.
The governor, however, also swallowed hard, taking the stage Tuesday night next to Ducey and promising to do what she can to get him elected in November.
Brewer acknowledged the active role she played in trying to defeat Ducey, including traveling around the state with Smith and helping him raise money. Brewer made no secret that she saw Smith as her heir apparent, citing his support of her key issues of Medicaid expansion and Common Core; Ducey said the former won't work and opposes the other.
The governor said, though, she supports many of Ducey's positions, and she said she subscribes to the philosophy often attributed to Ronald Reagan that someone who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and not a 20 percent enemy.
Waiting in the wings is Democrat Fred DuVal who had no primary opposition and is hoping to take advantage of the splintered GOP in a state where registered Republicans outnumber Democrats by about 175,000. But the real balance of power could be held by the 1.15 million Arizonans who have not affiliated with any of the four recognized parties.
DuVal already is angling for cross-party votes in November, releasing his first commercial Tuesday featuring former Republican Attorney General Grant Woods.
While DuVal is counting on schisms in the GOP, Ducey has one thing he does not: A record of proving he can actually win a hotly contested race. Aside from Tuesday's victory, Ducey managed to get himself elected treasurer four years ago.
DuVal has been more of a bureaucrat going back to his days in the administration of Gov. Bruce Babbitt, followed by stints in the Clinton White House and as chairman of the Arizona Board of Regents.
His lone political outing was a dozen years ago when, living in Flagstaff, he attempt to get the Democratic nomination for Congress. He came in fourth in a seven-way primary behind George Cordova, Stephen Udall and Diane Prescott; Cordova later lost the general election to Republican Rick Renzi.
A new survey released late Tuesday by Public Policy Polling suggests DuVal may be able to take advantage of the last several months of Republican bickering.
That poll conducted Sunday and Monday on behalf of ProgressNow Arizona, which supports DuVal, shows only 26 percent of those questioned with a favorable opinion of Ducey, compared with 41 percent who view him negatively. Even among Republicans, the survey shows Ducey with a 43-24 split favorable to unfavorable.
DuVal, by contrast, is a cipher to most voters, with 60 percent of those questioned saying they have no opinion at all of him.
Tuesday's vote was in some ways a referendum on Brewer's legacy and popularity.
The outgoing governor took the unusual step of interceding in the Republican primary, most notably with her endorsement of Smith, but Brewer went deeper, backing hand-picked candidates for other statewide races.
Michele Reagan, her pick for secretary of state, and Mark Brnovich, whom she backed for attorney general against incumbent Republican Tom Horne, both won. But treasurer candidate Randy Pullen, like Smith, fell by the wayside.
She also waded into legislative races across the state, providing both personal and financial support to lawmakers who supported Medicaid expansion as well as backing challengers to GOP lawmakers who did not. While Brewer-backed incumbents fared well, the challengers she supported generally did not.
The governor had no answer about what the results – and the failure of some of the candidates she backed – means about the importance Arizonans place on her endorsements.
“I guess that's up to the public,” she said.
“If they win, I would hope that people agreed with me,” Brewer continued. “If they don't, well, then we all come together for the Republican ticket.”
And that, she said, includes her.
“That's what it is,” she said. “We're the party of the 'big tent.'”