The Tea Party scored a victory over the establishment wing of the Republican Party Tuesday in one of the last primaries of 2014, the governor’s race in Arizona, where State Treasurer Doug Ducey won the nomintaion to succeed Gov. Jan Brewer.
The Associated Press called the race for Ducey at 8:17 p.m. local time, with less than a quarter of the returns counted.
Ducey, who founded the Cold Stone Creamery ice cream chain, had 37 percent of the GOP vote in the early returns, and former Mesa Mayor Scott Smith was second with 23 percent. GoDaddy executive Christine Jones was running third with 15 percent.
Brewer, who did not run for re-election, endorsed Smith to be her successor. He was considered more moderate than others in the GOP field, and Brewer saw him as most likely to continue her legacy, including her controversial decision to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act in the state.
Democrats will be pleased that Republican voters veered to the right and chose Ducey, who founded the Cold Stone Creamery ice cream chain, MSNBC predicted. Ducey is backed such champions of the right as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Arizona’s own longtime Maricopa County sheriff, Joe Arpaio.
Ducey's win could give Democrat Fred DuVal a better shot in the general election. DuVal, a former member of the Arizona Board of Regents, which runs the state’s three public universities, was unopposed in his primary.
Jones attempted a late surge with a burst of TV ads attacking Ducey, largely funded by GoDaddy founder Bob Parsons.
The other Republican candidates were current Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett; Frank Riggs, a former congressman from California, and disbarred former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas.
"I think this Republican race here is the epitome of the infighting within the Republican Party," Arizona State University political scientist Rodolfo Espino told the Washington Post.
The candidates have been relying on their high-profile supporters to put them over the top. Cruz did a “tele-town hall” for Ducey, and Brewer campaigned hard for Smith down the stretch.
Illegal immigration stands out as a key issue among all the Republican candidates. Cruz said Ducey’s his plan for addressing immigration “the most serious and credible plan to address the border crisis,” reported the Wall Street Journal.
Jones has called for 1,200 Arizona National Guard troops to secure the border. Bennett also called for the National Guard to be deployed, in addition to funding “high-tech detection systems” at the border.
This is Arizona's first open governor's race in 12 years. Brewer replaced Democrat Janet Napolitano when the latter became secretary of homeland security in 2009.