How Trump made Arizona’s gubernatorial race a vendetta against Doug Ducey

How Trump made Arizona’s gubernatorial race a vendetta against Doug Ducey
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Twenty months after now-President Joe Biden won Arizona in the United States’ 2020 presidential race, former President Donald Trump continues to hold a bitter grudge against conservative Republican Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey — who, as Trump sees it, let him down by acknowledging that Biden won Arizona fairly and certifying Biden’s victory in the state. Trump and Ducey were once allies, but Trump now slams the right-wing Arizona governor as a RINO: Republican In Name Only. And Trump’s vendetta against Ducey, according to Daily Beast reporter Sam Brodey, is making its presence felt in Arizona’s 2022 gubernatorial race.

Because of Arizona’s gubernatorial term limits, the two-term Ducey cannot seek reelection — and he has endorsed candidate Karrin Taylor Robson in Arizona’s 2022 Republican gubernatorial primary. Trump, however, has endorsed former television news anchor Kari Lake, a far-right “Stop the Steal” candidate who has repeatedly made the false claim that Trump won Arizona in 2020. Recount after recount has made it abundantly clear that Biden won Arizona fair and square, but that isn’t stopping Lake from campaigning on the Big Lie, not unlike far-right GOP nominee Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania’s 2022 gubernatorial race.

Brodey, in an article published by the Beast on July 19, emphasizes that the battle between Lake and Robson is also, in effect, a battle between Trump and Ducey.

READ MORE: The Arizona GOP needs to rid itself of Trump’s 'whackadoodle’ extremists: columnist

“It would be hard to find two better distillations of the dueling factions of today’s GOP than the two leading candidates in this primary,” Brodey explains. “Robson is a lifelong Republican who has hardline conservative views on everything from taxes and abortion to the hot-button culture war issues of the moment. But like her two most important backers — incumbent Gov. Doug Ducey and former Vice President Mike Pence — she has backed away from Trump amid his 2020 election obsession. Lake is a longtime TV anchor in Phoenix and a former liberal who once spoke gushingly about Barack Obama. But she remade herself into a Trump-loving crusader for the issues nearest and dearest to the MAGA base — chiefly, 2020 election conspiracies — while calling her critics ‘demonic’ and advocating for the Arizona secretary of state to be thrown in prison.”

Brodey continues, “Trump’s personal antipathy toward Ducey has made Arizona something like the second marquee stop on Trump’s 2020 revenge tour in this 2022 primary season. Much like with Gov. Brian Kemp in Georgia, the ex-president continues to blame Ducey for his 2020 defeat and has been hell-bent on ruining his political career.”

The Democratic Arizona secretary of state who Lake would like to imprison is Katie Hobbs, the frontrunner in Arizona’s Democratic gubernatorial primary. Hobbs has been campaigning against the Big Lie and in favor of the rule of law and voting rights. Hobbs views Lake as a dangerous authoritarian who doesn’t believe in democracy. Robson, meanwhile, is not a Never Trumper, but unlike Lake, she hasn’t made the 2020 election and the Big Lie the centerpiece of her campaign.

“The battle unfolding in Arizona is important not just because it could signal the future direction of the GOP and whether Trump’s word remains law among the most devoted Republicans,” Brodey observes. “A Robson victory, many insiders believe, would give Republicans their best shot at holding the governorship against an energized Democratic electorate in Arizona. A Lake victory, meanwhile, could give Democrats — who are poised to back Katie Hobbs, the secretary of state Lake wanted to jail — their best chance to flip control of the state. The cost of a Democratic failure would be the elevation of one of the country’s preeminent election conspiracists to the helm of a key 2024 battleground state.”

READ MORE: Judge shoots down Republican lawsuit, upholds early voting in Arizona

Never Trump conservative Jim Swift, in an article published by The Bulwark on July 19, argues that Ducey shouldn’t be exalted as a heroic figure simply because he is willing to publicly criticize someone as extreme as Lake. Criticizing extremism and accepting election results, Swift emphasizes, is what politicians are supposed to do in a democracy. “I don’t congratulate my dog for not soiling his crate while I’m at the grocery store; I don’t think politicians should be praised for doing what’s expected of them — or for stating the plain truth when there are no consequences for doing so,” Swift writes. “Such is the case of term-limited Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona, who made waves over the weekend by attacking Kari Lake, the Trump-endorsed frontrunner in the GOP primary for his potential successor.”

Swift continues, “Ducey’s governorship is something like the Grand Canyon State’s small-scale rendition of a Mitt Romney presidency: He’s a wonky, balanced budget–minded Republican who mandated that the state government ‘shrink’ while taking moderate positions on culture war issues. His tenure followed the nigh-accidental governorship of Jan Brewer, who ‘flipped’ the office from blue to red when President Obama tapped Brewer’s predecessor, Janet Napolitano, to run the Department of Homeland Security in 2009. Arizona has no lieutenant governor, which put Secretary of State Brewer next in the line of succession after Gov. Napolitano’s resignation to take up her appointment.”

In the past, Arizona was a deep red state that was closely identified with the conservative politics of Sen. Barry Goldwater and his successor, Sen. John McCain, a self-described “Goldwater conservative” or “Goldwater Republican.” But these days, Arizona is a swing state that has two Democratic U.S. senators: centrists Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly. Sinema has often exalted McCain as her political idol and is on very friendly terms with his daughter, conservative activist and former “The View” host Meghan McCain. Much of the Arizona GOP has responded to Democratic advances in the state by moving far right and rejecting old school Goldwater/McCain conservatism. Swift argues that Ducey’s criticism of Lake during a recent CNN appearance shouldn’t be viewed as a profile in courage.

“Parts of the conservative world are celebrating this denunciation as a brave stand,” Swift observes. “I’m not sure why. All Ducey is doing is being a good partisan on the way out while trying to shape history’s first draft of his career. It’s not time to congratulate him — not yet.”

READ MORE: How ‘normal’ Republicans shamelessly enable ‘lying, no-good’ extremists: conservative

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