Arizona Democratic Party spends big for secretary of state, not for governor

State Sen. Katie Hobbs, the Democratic nominee for secretary of state. Photo courtesy Gage Skidmore.

The Arizona Democratic Party is spending heavily on television ads to help Katie Hobbs in the race for secretary of state, but hasn’t made a similar investment in gubernatorial nominee David Garcia.

The party has reserved about $1.8 million worth of network television airtime in the Phoenix and Tucson media markets through election day for a coordinated advertising campaign with Hobbs, according to online records available from the Federal Communications Commission.

One Democratic Party ad touts Hobbs, a state senator who has served in the Legislature since 2011, as a leader in the fight for higher teacher salaries and in helping to end the eight-day teachers’ strike in late April and early May that galvanized the #RedForEd movement. And it hits businessman Steve Gaynor, the Republican nominee, for a 2014 settlement in which paid $134,000 after employees at his Ontario, Calif. printing plant filed a class action lawsuit alleging that he underpaid them for overtime work. In another ad, Hobbs speaks about her time as a social worker and her record in the Senate on teacher pay and in clearing the state’s backlog of untested rape kits from sexual assault cases. A disclaimer on the ads states that they are paid for by the party and authorized by Hobbs.

As of August 11, which was the end of the last reporting period, the Arizona Democratic Party only had about $207,000 on hand. It reported raising about $1.7 million since the 2016 election. A party spokesman didn’t respond to questions from the Arizona Mirror about where the money for the pro-Hobbs ads came from.

While the party is spending heavily on Hobbs, FCC records show that it hasn’t purchased any airtime for Garcia. Felecia Rotellini, the chairwoman of the Arizona Democratic Party, said it’s inaccurate to say that the party isn’t also spending to help Garcia. And she said the party’s decision to buy airtime for Hobbs doesn’t mean that it favors one candidate over others, or that it isn’t spending equal resources for other Democratic candidates. But she wouldn’t say if the party plans to buy any airtime for Garcia.

“There’s still a lot of time before Election Day,” Rotellini said.

The election is on November 6, and election officials mail out early ballots on October 10.

Polling shows incumbent Republican Gov. Doug Ducey sporting a comfortable lead in most public polls, including two polls that were released in recent days. On Wednesday, the Arizona Republic released the results of a live-caller poll it commissioned through Suffolk University that surveyed a handful of major races, including the gubernatorial race, where Ducey led Garcia, 50 percent to 38 percent.

Also on Wednesday, Fox News released a detailed, live-caller poll of likely voters that showed Ducey leading Garcia, 55-37. The poll was conducted jointly by Democratic pollster Anderson Robbins Research and Republican pollster Shaw & Company Research. Those results showed Ducey padding his lead from from several weeks earlier, when another Fox News poll showed the governor with an 11-point lead.

No public polling has been conducted on the race for secretary of state in the general election.

Gaynor has relied almost exclusively on self-funding for his campaign. During his campaign for the Republican nomination, in which he trounced incumbent Secretary of State Michele Reagan, Gaynor pumped at least $1.5 million of his own money into the race, spending heavily on television advertising. Gaynor went back up on television in late September with a new ad attacking Hobbs for supporting liberal policies on taxes, regulation and immigration.

According to Hobbs’ last campaign finance report, she’d raised about $568,000 through the end of the last reporting period, and had about $272,000 on hand.

Ducey and his Republican allies have out-raised and outspent Garcia and the Democrats to a staggering degree. According to an analysis of television ad spending tweeted by 12 News reporter Brahm Resnik, the GOP has outspent the Democrats by a 50-to-1 margin in the governor’s race, with Ducey, the Arizona Republican Party and the Republican Governors Association dropping about $14.7 million into the race so far, compared to about $290,000 by Garcia, who hasn’t yet received any outside support from the Arizona Democratic Party or Democratic Governors Association.

Through the end of the last reporting period, Ducey had raised $4.7 million, and had about $3.2 million left to spend. Garcia had raised just over $1 million and had spent nearly $900,000 in his Democratic primary battle against state Sen. Steve Farley.

State law only recently allowed candidates and political parties to coordinate on such advertising campaigns. In 2016, the Legislature passed a major overhaul of Arizona’s campaign finance laws that was authored by Secretary of State Michele Reagan’s office. Among the myriad provisions of that bill was a statute allowing political parties to coordinate on campaign activities like ads. Candidates can also raise money for their political parties and earmark that money for particular races. Previously, parties could spend to help their candidates, but weren’t allowed to coordinate with them.

More than 40 years of Arizona history demonstrate the importance of the Secretary of State’s Office. In addition to being the state’s top election official, the secretary of state is first in the line of succession to the Governor’s Office. Four of the last nine secretaries of state ascended to the Governor’s Office through the line of succession. And since the election of Gov. Raul Castro in 1974, every Arizona governor who has entered office through election has left early, triggering the line of succession. If either Ducey or Garcia leaves office at the natural end of a term, they’ll be the first Arizona governor to do so since Jack Williams, a Republican who served from 1967-1975.

Arizona hasn’t had a Democratic secretary of state since Richard Mahoney, who served from 1991-1995.

Jeremy Duda
Associate Editor Jeremy Duda is a Phoenix native and began his career in journalism in 2003 after graduating from the University of Arizona. Prior to joining the Arizona Mirror, he worked at the Arizona Capitol Times, where he spent eight years covering the Governor's Office and two years as editor of the Yellow Sheet Report. Before that, he wrote for the Hobbs News-Sun of Hobbs, NM, and the Daily Herald of Provo, Utah. Jeremy is also the author of the history book “If This Be Treason: the American Rogues and Rebels Who Walked the Line Between Dissent and Betrayal.”

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