10:29 am - Monday November 16, 2015

Arizona’s state treasurer claims victory in Republican primary

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Arizona state treasurer and businessman Doug Ducey claimed victory on Tuesday in the race to be the Republican nominee to replace outgoing Governor Jan Brewer, who has repeatedly clashed with the Obama administration over illegal immigration.

With border security issues high on the political agenda, Ducey held a convincing lead of 37 percent with two-thirds of the precincts reporting in the six-way race that included ex-mayor and developer Scott Smith. Smith had 22.4 percent of the vote.

Ducey and Smith have been considered the top two candidates in the race by the latest political polls and by observers. Smith conceded the race in a speech surrounded by supporters two hours after the polls closed.

The Arizona governor’s race is the highest profile battle among a series of state primary contests being held on Tuesday that also include votes in Florida, Vermont and Oklahoma. The winner in Arizona will face Democrat Fred Duval, a former member of the state Board of Regents, in the Nov. 6 general election.

Republican contender Ducey, the staunchly anti-abortion former chief executive of ice cream company Cold Stone Creamery, campaigned on rejuvenating the border state’s economy, improving education, and shaking free of federal constraints.

But Ducey, 50, had also called for better border security, while avoiding statements on comprehensive immigration reform and providing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants that might alienate some voters.

“We need to start with securing the border and then we can talk about other things,” said Ducey, whose supporters include hardline Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Tea Party favorite Texas Senator Ted Cruz.

BREWER ENDORSEMENT

His main primary opponent, Smith, the 58-year-old former mayor of the state’s third-largest city, was considered a more moderate Republican who also wanted a secure border and has been endorsed by Brewer.

A recent poll of early voters by political consultant Bert Coleman pegged Ducey and Smith as the top two in the race, confirming what other observers have said.

A potential dark horse was Christine Jones, 46, a former internet hosting company executive, political observers said.

Jones had garnered 16.4 percent of the vote with two thirds of the precincts reporting.

Jones, a first-time candidate, has campaigned hard against illegal immigration, billing herself as a conservative leader who joined the race as an political outsider.

Another key Arizona race is a tight Republican contest to challenge incumbent Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick in a competitive U.S. Congressional race.

Arizona Democrats will also choose a successor to U.S. Representative Ed Pastor, who is retiring after 11 terms from a heavily Latino district where there is no Republican candidate.

In Florida, Charlie Crist won the Democratic nomination for governor, defeating his primary challenger with almost 75 percent of the vote and setting the stage for a nationally watched governor’s race against incumbent Governor Rick Scott, who cruised toward victory on Tuesday. [ID:nL1N0QW0TK]

In Vermont, Republican Scott Milne looked poised to face incumbent Democratic Governor Peter Shumlin in November after both greatly outstripped primary challengers with about 85 percent of voting precincts reporting preliminary results.

In Oklahoma, Democratic State Senator Connie Johnson edged challenger Jim Rogers 58 percent to 42 percent with all precincts reporting unofficial results, according to the Oklahoma State Election Board. She will face U.S. Representative James Lankford in the U.S. Senate contest, media reported.

(Additional reporting by Letitia Stein in Tampa, Florida; Writing by Eric M. Johnson; Editing by Cynthia Johnston; Editing by Michael Perry)

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