PHOENIX — Gov. Doug Ducey said the just-completed Virginia election provides a roadmap for Republican gubernatorial candidates in Arizona and elsewhere who hope to get elected next year.
Keep it local.
Ducey told Capitol Media Services Wednesday that Glenn Youngkin managed to become the first Republican governor for that state in more than a decade by staying out of federal issues.
“He was focused on what is specific to what a governor could take action on,” Ducey said, things like education and masks.
What Youngkin also did, however, is keep Donald Trump at arm’s length.
All this comes as several of the GOP contenders for the 2022 Arizona governor’s race have plotted a different political path, seeking to portray themselves as ideological allies with the often divisive yet still popular in some circles former president. And leading that effort is former TV host Kari Lake who not only courted and got Trump’s endorsement but even had a fundraiser with the former president at his Florida resort.
But Ducey was quick to say that he is not telling any of the Republican gubernatorial wannabes that they should stay away from Trump — or have Trump stay away — if they hope to win the general election in less than a year.
“That’s going to be a candidate’s choice on who they ask to be a surrogate,” he said.
Still, Ducey suggested that the Virginia race has a lesson for those who have gubernatorial ambitions.
“What I heard Glenn Youngkin say was that he was going to run a Virginia race,” the governor said.
But that, he noted, wasn’t true with the campaign run by the Democratic contender.
“He was running a national campaign for governor,” Ducey said.
“If you look at his opponent, Terry McAuliffe, he had President Biden in, Vice President Harris in, he had former President Obama in,” he continued. “The only person I don’t think he had in was Hillary Clinton.
The result was Youngkin picking up about 50.6% of the vote, becoming the first Republican elected governor in that state in more than a decade.
It’s not just about national support, Ducey said. It’s about the focus of the campaign.
And that, he said means candidates tailoring the race to Arizona specific issues where they “create their own brand and stay out of national politics, the national jet stream of issues.”
One issue that Ducey believes is a sure-fire winner is education which he said is clearly a state concern. And the governor has a clear idea of what will appeal to Arizona voters: going after teacher unions.
“I think the pandemic exposed much of what is happening in pockets of education,” he said, with schools closed down at least partly due to demands by teachers. “Parents got a real taste that the union is not on the parents’ side. And as much as we love to support our teachers, the union, the government union, is not focused on our kids.”
That, in turn, leads into what Ducey does believe is a good issue for GOP candidates: school choice and the option for parents to choose something other than traditional schools.
“I think there’s an opportunity for it to be expanded,” he said.
“Parental choice makes a parent a customer who has some power in the relationship,” Ducey continued. “And those options of school choice, of charter schools, of Catholic schools, Christian schools, private schools, Hebrew schools ought to be available to all of our kids.”
The governor has one other piece of advice for gubernatorial hopefuls, also based on how Youngkin ran his campaign.
“He was very positive, optimistic, aspirational, very much a happy warrior,” he said.“I think people want to see that in politics. People have missed that in recent races.”
Youngkin’s victory comes as the Republican Governors Association meets this week in Phoenix. Ducey, who is chairman of the group, is basking in the wake of all that.
“There’s a celebratory theme to this because we want and won Virginia, a state that is considered deep blue that had not been won by a Republican since 2010,” he said. And what sweetened the victory, Ducey said, is that Republicans also won races for lieutenant governor, the attorney general and took control of the state House.
“So that gives a lot of hope and optimism to the future,” the governor continued. “What we saw is Republicans have a lot of energy, Democrats are dispirited, and independents have collapsed on Joe Biden.”