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Ducey firmly disavows Senate run: 'I'm an executive'

Puts halt to Republican recruitment push

Gov. Doug Ducey put an end to speculation that he might jump into this year's Senate race in Arizona, telling donors "I'm an executive" in an email explaining why he doesn't want to run to be a federal legislator in this election.

For months, national Republican figures have pushed Ducey to join what they see as a lackluster primary field seeking to challenge U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly, the first-term Democrat.

The governor — who has repeatedly said "I'm not running" when asked over the past year, but carefully maintained the present tense in statements that kept his options open — quashed those hopes in a letter sent to his supporters Thursday.

Noting that "a number of people have asked me to reconsider," Ducey told them "my mind hasn't changed."

When I first contemplated running for public office one of the first people I reached out to was Sen. Jon Kyl. When considering how best I could serve, he asked a simple question: "Are you an executive or are you a legislator?"

The answer was obvious – by nature and by training I'm an executive. And that led me to run for treasurer and ultimately governor instead of seeking federal office. It was a great question and the answer is as true today as it was more than a decade ago.

"These days, if you're going to run for public office, you have to really want the job. Right now I have the job I want," said Ducey, whose final term runs out after this year's gubernatorial election.

Ducey has been widely seen as still having political aspirations. Unable to run again for governor because of term limits, he could seek to run for the Senate in 2024, when incumbent Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema is likely to face a primary challenger, or set his sights yet higher and announce a presidential campaign.

He has been serving as the head of the Republican Governors Association, raising his national profile and racking up favors.

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Ducey said in his letter that he's "committed" to that work, and closing his "years of service to Arizona with a very productive final legislative session."

"We have a strong field of candidates in Arizona and I will be actively supporting our nominee – and perhaps weighing in before the primary," Ducey said in the letter, which was first reported by the Arizona Republic.

While Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and the National Republican Senatorial Committee has been pushing Ducey to join the 2022 race, the Arizona governor would face challenges for the balancing act he's played between Trumpism and more establishment wings of his party.

Trump has blasted Ducey for months. Ducey has refused to align himself with the former president's unfounded claims of "fraud" in the 2020 election — and even silenced his cell phone when Trump attempted to call him while he publicly signed the documents certifying the results of that election, including the victory of now-President Joe Biden.

"MAGA will never accept RINO Governor Doug Ducey of Arizona running for the U.S. Senate — So save your time, money, and energy, Mitch!," Trump said last month, amongst his steady torrent of emailed statements.

While Ducey expressed confidence in GOP prospects this year, Democrats seized his announcement to criticize Arizona Republicans on Thursday, calling it a demonstration that "potential Republican candidates know they cannot defend their party’s disastrous agenda."

Once again, Senate Republicans’ recruitment efforts have failed, and their top potential candidates are refusing to run against strong Democratic senators like Mark Kelly," said the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Kelly, having to run again for a full six-year term after winning his seat in a special election in 2020, has been one of the top fundraisers in the country, and this year's race is forecast to be one of the hardest-fought in the country.

The Republican field includes state Attorney General Mark Brnovich, energy executive Jim Lamon, and Blake Masters, a Tucson resident who works for billionaire tech investor Peter Thiel. All have been jockeying to occupy the right wing of the party to attract Trump's attention and favor.

Before successfully running for governor and serving two terms, Ducey was elected as the state treasurer in 2010.

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As a business executive, Ducey was the CEO of ice cream chain Cold Stone Creamery from 1995-2007. The company, which he left after he and his partner sold their ownership stakes, ranked among the 10 worst franchise brands for defaults on Small Business Administration loans.

Ducey then became the main investor in iMemories, a company that digitized old home movies from VHS tapes. He served as chairman of the board of that company until 2012. iMemories employed Chris Simcox, a founder of the border vigilante group dubbed the "Minutemen Civil Defense Corps," who was later convicted of sexually abusing a five-year-old girl. Company representatives said his duties did not involve viewing any of the films handled by iMemories.

Complete text of Ducey's letter

Dear —

When asked about a potential run for the US Senate in January 2021, I gave a simple answer: "No."

In the intervening months a number of people have asked me to reconsider. I'm honored by the confidence and interest you've shown in my public career, and I want to explain why my mind hasn't changed.

When I first contemplated running for public office one of the first people I reached out to was Sen. Jon Kyl. When considering how best I could serve, he asked a simple question: "Are you an executive or are you a legislator?"

The answer was obvious – by nature and by training I'm an executive. And that led me to run for Treasurer and ultimately Governor instead of seeking federal office. It was a great question and the answer is as true today as it was more than a decade ago.

These days, if you're going to run for public office, you have to really want the job. Right now I have the job I want, and my intention is to close my years of service to Arizona with a very productive final legislative session AND to help elect Republican governors across the country in my role as chairman of the Republican Governors Association. These are tasks I've committed to and I'm going to dedicate 100% of my energy to fulfilling the commitments I've made, both to the citizens of Arizona and to my colleagues at the RGA. Angela and I will decide what comes next after that.

Rest assured, I am fully committed to helping elect a Republican US Senator from Arizona. Given what's happening in Washington it's imperative for our party to take back both the Senate and US House to act as a constitutional brake on the excesses and bad policies of the Biden administration. We have a strong field of candidates in Arizona and I will be actively supporting our nominee – and perhaps weighing in before the primary.

The only downside about any of this is that it would be an honor to serve with Sen. Mitch McConnell. I consider him an historic figure and one of the Titans of the Senate, and I am supportive of everything he's doing to elect Republican senators and wrest back control from Chuck Schumer.

Thank you for your support and for reading this. Angela and I are grateful for all you've done to help us, and I just wanted you to hear from me directly.

Thank you, Doug

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Paul Ingram/TucsonSentinel.com

Ducey at his Tucson 'State of the State' speech in January 2022.

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