Arizona Governor Doug Ducey is launching his bid for a second term with a series of stops and interviews around the state.
In Yuma Ducey spoke with KAWC about his campaign theme, “Securing Arizona’s Future.” Ducey says the slogan embodies a “virtuous cycle,” in which a healthy economy, an effective K-12 education system, public safety, and a safe and secure border all contribute to Arizona’s quality of life.
Ducey says he’s gotten better at the job of governor. He says he was an “outsider and a newcomer” when he first took office and he now knows better how to work inside the government and how to bring the right people together to serve state residents. As he launches a bid for a second term he says he’s proud of what he has accomplished with his team and is ready for another four years.
Border Security and Immigration Enforcement
Carving out a role for the state in border enforcement is a major priority for Ducey. “Border security is national security” he says, and the focus should be on drug cartels and human trafficking, or “the bad guys.” He says his Border Strike Force has made Arizonans safer by improving cooperation between local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. But he maintains his border security strategy also includes preserving good relations with the state’s southern neighbor.
When asked if he is ever disturbed by rhetoric that implies border communities, like Yuma or San Luis, Arizona, are being overrun by violent criminals, despite the experience of people who live there? He says it is concerning. Ducey says as the governor, and the state’s “spokesperson,” it is his responsibility to be measured about what he wants to accomplish and to represent the state to the wider world. He touts his relationship with counterparts in Mexico and his involvement in cross-border organizations like the Arizona-Mexico Commission. Ducey says business and tourism with the state’s number one trading partner is tied to maintaining a safe and secure border, something both sides recognize.
Ducey says he understands the optics of children being taken from their parents, a policy recently reversed by the Donald Trump administration, but he says border crossers use children to get into the U.S. and a recent surge of people trying to cross the border has him concerned as desert temperatures rise. Ducey says he is in regular contact with federal officials and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirsten Njielsen, who he speaks with about every other week, about these concerns and the impact of current federal policies.
Funding for K-12 Schools
The fight over funding for Arizona public schools dominated 2018 for the Ducey administration. Prior to a statewide teacher walkout in late April and early May, Ducey and the state legislature had approved a modest 2 percent raise over two years for state educators. Within a month the Arizona legislature passed a further 19 percent in increases with Governor Ducey signed on to the plan. The governor pushes aside the notion that he was dragged into supporting the expanded raises and only had a change of heart because of the teacher walk-out. Ducey says he is proud of what his administration did for education and for teachers, all without raising taxes. He says he took on education despite only having a year left in his term and he takes issue with the idea that because the funding comes from the general fund it is not dedicated education money. Additionally, he says he’ll veto any legislation that threatens the funding.
Ducey also says he didn’t need to meet with organizers of the Red for Ed movement in Arizona to address the education funding issue because he met with teachers and superintendents. He says the group wants to raise taxes in the state in order to mandate dedicated funding source, but he says that would be devastating for the state economy. “They want to turn Arizona into a carbon copy of California,” he says, “and that will kill the state economy.”
Protecting the State Economy
Protecting and growing the state economy is also a high priority for Ducey as he seeks a second term, but he is aware that rural areas of the state often lag behind urban progress. Ducey says Maricopa County is the fastest growing county in the nation, expanding the tax base and filling state coffers.
But when asked if Yuma County’s chronic and long-term unemployment rate, often the highest in the nation, is something now just accepted by state leaders, Ducey says no. He envisions a rural “jobs act” to take advantage of an influx of new residents from other states and says the strength of the state economy may encourage job creators to look at communities like Yuma, with its “unique attributes” and ready labor force, to open new businesses.
Weighing in on the on-going re-negotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, Ducey says he is a strong supporter of free trade and has been outspoken about the issue with the President, Vice-President and leaders in Mexico. Ducey says Arizona is lucky to have Mexico as a neighbor and trading partner.
Ducey also discussed the state’s water woes. As Arizona, Nevada and California continue to negotiate a crucial drought plan to avoid mandatory cuts based on water levels in Lake Mead, Ducey says he wants to see Arizona lead the region on this issue. Some suggest Arizona’s role in negotiations is hampered by in-fighting among water management groups. Ducey says managing water is something Arizona is very good at, perhaps “best in the nation,” he says. “It is time for Arizona to speak with one voice with regard to water issues.” Ducey hopes to see legislative reforms to address the issue in the first year of a second term.
In 2014, Ducey defeated Democrat Fred Duval in the general election. He won Yuma County by more than 15 points.
Ducey faces a primary challenge from former Secretary of State Ken Bennet in August. Arizona State University professor David Garcia leads a trio of candidates in the Democratic Primary.