PHOENIX — Facing a possible tough reelection next year, Gov. Doug Ducey won’t say whether he wants the help of the nation’s chief executive.
“These political seasons are way too long,” the governor said Wednesday when asked if he wants Donald Trump to come to Arizona to campaign with him. “We’re going to be focusing on our day job and the holidays.”
That question is not academic.
The New York Times reports the question of the president’s role in the 2018 election was a topic of discussion at the meeting of the Republican Governors Association earlier this month in Austin, Texas.
Ducey did not attend. But some who were there were concerned about negative feelings about Trump spilling over into their own races.
For example, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan told a Times reporter that it was “pretty safe” he would work to keep the president out of his state.
By contrast, Maine Gov. Paul LePage said Republicans should “absolutely” campaign with the president.
And Florida Gov. Rick Scott would not answer questions at a news conference about whether he believes Trump would help Republicans in the midterm election.
Ducey, asked about his own views on Wednesday, fell into the same category.
“We’re going to be informing the voters of Arizona of what we’ve done,” the governor said, saying campaign decisions will be made “at the proper time.” And this, he said, is not that time, given that it’s still 2017.
“I think people, quite frankly, are sick of politics,” Ducey said, saying he read something in the newspaper that people don’t want to talk politics at Thanksgiving dinner. “And neither do I.”
The governor did not deny, however, that he has been raising money already for next year’s race. In fact, he was already collecting money in September 2016.
At this point the two top Democrat contenders are state Sen. Steve Farley of Tucson and Arizona State University Professor David Garcia.
Both are focusing on the fact that per-student education funding in Arizona is near the bottom of all the states, as are teacher salaries. Ducey is already on the defensive, touting the additional funds that have gone into K-12 education since he took office in early 2015.
On paper, Ducey should have the edge, given that registered Republicans outnumber Democrats by about 162,000. But it could be the non-affiliated voters who hold sway, with 34 percent of the nearly 3.7 million registered to vote.
Since taking office, Ducey has met the president at the airport any time he has come to the state. But the closest the governor has come to sharing a public stage with Trump in Arizona was when he was one of several local politicos who spoke ahead of the presidential contender at a campaign rally last year in Phoenix.
So why wouldn’t a Republican governor want a Republican president to help with a reelection campaign?
“What we want to do is put our record forward, and at the appropriate time,” Ducey said.
“Like I said, right now there is no reelection campaign,” he continued. “We’re focused on our day job.”
Ducey did say that he would prefer that the GOP was running someone other than Roy Moore to fill a vacant Senate seat in Alabama. Moore is the subject of multiple allegations that he had sexual contact with underage girls while he was in his 30s.
The former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice has denied the claims outright. Some of his defenders have said that, even if they did occur, it is so far in the past as to be irrelevant.
Ducey, for his part, doesn’t quite see it that way.
“This was bad behavior 40 years ago,” he said.
“This is bad behavior today,” the governor continued. “If I was in the private sector, I’d terminate this guy.”
Polls show Moore in a statistical dead heat with Democrat Doug Jones. And with Republicans having just 52 seats in the Senate, it is important for the GOP to hang on to what should be a GOP shoo-in.
“I’d like to see a different candidate,” Ducey said. But he acknowledged that’s not his call.
“You understand how the system works,” he said, with it now being too late to replace him on the ballot as the party’s nominee. “This is ultimately up to the people of Alabama.”