Former Nogales mayor is first to announce 2022 bid for Arizona governor

Maria Polletta
Arizona Republic
Marco López, 42, is the first Democrat to announce his candidacy in the 2022 race for governor.

Marco López, the former Nogales mayor who swiftly rose through the ranks of government to serve under President Barack Obama, became the first person to formally announce his candidacy for Arizona's 2022 gubernatorial race on Tuesday. 

In a video released in both English and Spanish, the 42-year-old Democrat said he was running to succeed Republican Gov. Doug Ducey because, for too many people, the Arizona promise that "anything is possible, no matter who you are or where you come from" is no longer being met.

"Growing up in Nogales, my father was a plumber who worked his way up to become a general contractor, and my mom was a small business owner. They were always telling me that if you work hard and get a good education, you can succeed," he said in an interview with The Arizona Republic.

"That was true for me … but it seems like we’re not that place anymore. So many people are being left behind because the state isn’t working for them. We're not taking care of the basics."

A career in public, private sectors

Those basics, according to López: quality education and job training, access to comprehensive health care and "jobs, jobs, jobs." 

"These things require us to think about where we want to be in 10 years from now … and how we’re bringing economic opportunities to every part of the state — not just Maricopa and Pima counties, but all 15 counties and all 22 tribal entities," he said.

"I grew up in Santa Cruz County, so I understand the struggle and the frustration of people who think opportunities always pass them by. Because, guess what? A lot of times, they do."

López attended the University of Arizona and quickly caught the public service bug. A year after graduating, at age 22, he became mayor of Nogales.

After serving at the municipal level, he led the Arizona-Mexico Commission under former Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano before moving to the Arizona Department of Commerce. When Obama tapped Napolitano to lead the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, López followed as U.S. Customs and Border Protection chief of staff. 

López also has worked in the private sector for nearly a decade. His business advisory firm, International Business Solutions, provides strategic counsel to domestic and international organizations.

And he is a founding partner for SkyBridge Arizona, a sprawling development at Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport that will allow U.S. and Mexican customs officials to jointly inspect and process shipments.

Will resume play with progressives?

The customs and border-heavy parts of his resume could present problems for López in a Democratic primary, given progressive voters' increasing desire for immigration and border reforms.

So could his role as an adviser to Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, who, as one of the richest men in the world, is not exactly a man of the people. López already is fighting rumors that he plans to fund his campaign out of pocket, stressing that he'll be "inviting people to take part" and donate "just like any other traditional campaign."

Still, López argues his personal, public service and private sector backgrounds have uniquely positioned him to serve Arizonans of all regions and parties. He pointed to the COVID-19 pandemic as an example.

"When I was at DHS, every year for three years at 7 a.m., I would wake up and get an intelligence briefing," he said. "They would tell us everything that was going on from a threat perspective, and it was up to us to use data, science, technology, analytics, human intelligence, computer intelligence to make a decision."

That's an approach Arizona could've benefited from a year ago when the crisis began, he contended: Listen and follow the data. Instead, leaders "put politics over solid decision-making," he said, contributing to the deaths of nearly 17,000 Arizonans.

"The one thing I want people to know (about this campaign) is that I will work hard every single day on their behalf," he said. "This is, as it should be, about them, not about me."

Campaign announcements to come 

López said he will unveil more detailed policy plans regarding health care, economic development, education and the border as his campaign unfolds in the coming months. 

Though no one else has formally announced an intention to try to succeed Gov. Doug Ducey, the Democratic primary is expected to be less crowded than the Republican field. 

Democratic names being floated include Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and Congressman Greg Stanton.

On the GOP side, possibilities include Attorney General Mark Brnovich, Treasurer Kimberly Yee, former Ducey chief of staff Kirk Adams, developer Karrin Taylor Robson and Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Chucri, among others. 

Reach the reporter at maria.polletta@arizonarepublic.com or 602-653-6807. Follow her on Twitter @mpolletta.

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