PHOTO: AZPM
GOP gubernatorial candidates (from left) Ken Bennett, Christine Jones, Frank Riggs, Scott Smith and Andrew Thomas. Not attending: Doug Ducey.

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Six candidates is a record number for a party primary in Arizona, elections officials say.

It's also a recipe for voter indecision and a scramble for attention among the candidates. Arizona's Republican gubernatorial race is just that.

Simple math shows that a candidate can win the party nomination in the primary with 16.7 percent of the vote. Early voting is under way, and the number of undecided voters has dwindled, but at one point pre-election, it was at 50 percent of the electorate, several polls reported.

Candidate Scott Smith rose in the polls in the last two weeks as the number of undecided voters began to drop. Smith said the large number of undecided voters is tough to deal with in a crowded field.

"Getting that message out is our problem," he said. "We find that when the message goes out people respond, and we are going to work our tails off because I don’t believe this election is going to be decided until Aug. 26 (election day)."

Candidate Frank Riggs said the tight competition has led to negative campaigning, which he hoped would send voters to him.

"The two presumed frontrunners are pounding each other both directly and through the typical dark money, third party operative stuff," Riggs said, referring to Doug Ducey and Christine Jones. "And not only is that turning off a lot of folks, I think it is causing them to hesitate and wait and see how the race plays out further."

In Arizona, voters with no party affiliation make up the single biggest group of registered voters, and they can vote in a party primary simply by asking for any one party's ballot.

Early voters and independents are getting plenty of attention from candidates flooding them with calls.

Pima County Recorder F. Ann Rodriguez said as much attention as campaigns pay to early voters, few independents usually take part in early voting.

" ... a little less than 18,000 (independents) have actually asked for ballots," Rodriguez said. "We’ve got a long way to go to reach those independent voters to get them to participate in this primary ."

Each of the candidates in the six-way Republican gubernatorial race is trying to reach voters, and in recent days most have put new advertisements on television.

Candidate Ken Bennett said he expects the race to come down to the wire.

"It is going to go down to the 26th, and I believe it is going to be determined by 1 or 2 percent," Bennett said. "It's going to be very tight, and the difference between the winner and second place and below could be just a few thousand votes."

Early ballots are available through Friday by contacting the county recorder's office.

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