Story by Bob Christie
The Associated Press
The race for the Republican nomination in Arizona’s governor’s primary is down to a final week.
On Monday, GoDaddy founder Bob Parsons wrote a $1 million check to a political action committee backing his former corporate lawyer, gubernatorial candidate Christine Jones, and Gov. Jan Brewer joined former Mesa Mayor Scott Smith in Prescott for an event backing his candidacy. The day was to wrap up with a candidate forum in northern Arizona attended by four of the six GOP candidates — state Treasurer Doug Ducey and former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas did not plan to attend.
Parsons’ $1 million check to the Better Leaders for Arizona PAC brings his donations to the group to more than $2 million. He said he was putting his money in the race to counter negative ads targeting Jones that he believes are coming from Ducey backers.
“I could have very well went the dark money route through a couple of LLCs, and never been disclosed that I was involved in it,” Parsons said in an interview. “She has got dark money that I believe that can be traced to all the lobbyists supporting Mr. Ducey just attacking her left, right and center. So what I’m doing is, I’m stepping up and helping her fight back.”
Ducey spokeswoman Melissa DeLaney said Parsons’ claims were “both unwarranted and false.”
Others in the race include Secretary of State Ken Bennett, who continues to make the most of the $754,000 in Clean Elections funding he’s received. Despite being outspent by large amounts by Jones Ducey, Bennett spokesman Matt Roberts said Monday his candidate is still very much in contention. The campaign is relaunching televisions ads this week and doing a large radio buy as well.
“The only poll that matters as we know is the one that occurs next Tuesday, and we think we’re in the discussion,” Roberts said.
Thomas also is doling out his Clean Elections funding on campaign ads, while former U.S. Congressman Frank Riggs continues to hold daily events.
Smith has scheduled a press event for Tuesday with Brewer and Republican mayors from across the state as he tries to capitalize on what his backers say is his momentum as he seeks to best Ducey, the perceived front-runner. The event was announced as an outside group began running ads targeting Smith and a Mesa man filed a complaint with the secretary of state’s office alleging Smith failed to note trips he took as mayor on his financial disclosure reports.
Smith spokesman Drew Sexton said the trips were paid for by the U.S. Conference of Mayors as part of his official duties as the group’s president and were not gifts.
In a move some saw as a sign that Ducey thinks he’s ahead of the pack, he’s not attending the final two candidate forums. In addition to Monday’s event in Flagstaff, the Arizona League of Cities and Towns is hosting a forum in Phoenix featuring Democratic candidate Fred DuVal and all the Republicans in the race except Ducey. DeLaney dismissed such speculation, saying he’s had other events planned for some time.
But Smith’s backers think he’s in the hunt. And Parsons pointed to a $758,000 check Jones wrote to her own campaign last week as a sign that she thinks she’s in the hunt as well.
“And I know Christine Jones well enough to know that if she didn’t think she could win this thing, she wouldn’t be doing that,” Parsons said.