Waiting until after some ballots already have been cast, Gov. Jan Brewer Thursday finally formally backed former Mesa Mayor Scott Smith as her successor.
At an event at the Chicago Cubs spring training facility on Aug. 7, Brewer said Smith supports the same things she does. And she said Smith “stood strong with me” with her decisions to expand the state's Medicaid program and adopt the Common Core education standards.
Brewer acknowledged her move comes more than a week after early voting started for the Aug. 26 Republican primary. It also comes weeks after she gave her support to Michele Reagan in her bid to become the GOP nominee for secretary of state and Randy Pullen in his race for treasurer.
But she brushed aside questions of what took her so long.
“In politics, it's all about the timing,” she said.
Smith, for his part, downplayed the delay in the endorsement he and his supporters had sought now for weeks.
“I think those people who have voted early were decided and they either were coming my way or they weren't,” he said. Smith said Brewer's endorsement will help sway those who still remain undecided.
“With six people running, there's a lot of people who are still looking at those ballots, wondering which way they're going to go,” he continued. “When they hear our message we're confident more will go our way than the other way.”
If nothing else, Brewer's endorsement should help him get that message out: Smith said his campaign raised $50,000 in less than 24 hours after the first reports that Brewer would publicly back him got out.
That funding — and whatever flows now — could prove crucial.
New campaign finance reports are not due to be filed until just days before the Aug. 26 primary.
But as of May 31, Smith had collected just $874,648 for his race. That compares with $1.63 million raised by Doug Ducey and $2.29 million for Christine Jones, though most of that came out of her own pocket.
Brewer's endorsement did not come easily. It took intense lobbying by several state lawmakers who have been loyal to the governor in the past to convince her to make the move.
“We've been asking her to do this for a long time,” said state Sen. Bob Worsley, R-Mesa. He said a group of lawmakers finally had a chance to sit down personally with her “and we gave it our pitch.”
Worsley shared Smith's view that the delay in getting Brewer to make her endorsement does not make her action too late.
“Heavens no,” he said.
“It's momentum,” Worsley continued. “And in a six-person race with the margin (of difference among some candidates) being so small, Election Day is going to matter,” even if just 20 percent of the ballots remain to be cast on Aug. 26.
Worsley acknowledged Smith and Brewer have taken identical stances on key issues like Medicaid and Common Core. Smith at Thursday's event, specifically echoed Brewer's theme that there can be no immigration reform until the border is secure.
Worsley said that does not mean those who supported Brewer's positions were automatically going to vote for Smith.
“It makes a huge difference,” he said. The governor has credibility, she's very popular around the state.''
The endorsement comes amid efforts by Michael Bidwill, owner of the Arizona Cardinals, to get business leaders who might otherwise back Smith to instead support Ducey. In a note to executives, Bidwill essentially said he has no dispute with Smith but that the “political reality” shows the race is between Ducey and Jones.
“I don't know exactly what it is that he is doing,” Brewer said of Bidwill. “I just know what I'm doing.”