ELECTIONS

'Conservatives can trust Karrin': Ducey endorses Taylor Robson for Arizona governor

Stacey Barchenger
Arizona Republic
Karrin Taylor Robson poses for photos before a debate with Republican candidates ahead of the Aug. 2 primary election for the Arizona governor's office on Wednesday, June 29, 2022, in Phoenix.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has chosen a favored candidate in the Republican primary to replace him, endorsing developer Karrin Taylor Robson in a move that could carry significant sway among deep-pocketed donors and Trump-averse voters in the state. 

In a statement released Thursday by Taylor Robson’s campaign, Ducey said he had no question that Taylor Robson was the “proven conservative ready to lead on day one.”

“She’s a native Arizonan and lifelong Republican who got her start working for President Reagan," Ducey said in the prepared statement. “Conservatives can trust Karrin. She raised a family here, and started a small business that has helped create thousands of Arizona jobs. Karrin is the real deal: pro-life, pro-gun, and pro-wall — and she’ll stand up to Joe Biden and the radical left.” 

The sitting governor’s endorsement in the four-way GOP primary sets up a Ducey-Trump proxy battle and will add national attention on Arizona as the latest test of former President Donald Trump’s grip on his party. 

The former president has endorsed former TV news anchor Kari Lake in the gubernatorial race and has frequently lambasted Ducey for certifying Joe Biden’s 2020 election win. Ducey has largely tried to move his party past false claims of fraud while Trump has made supporting that fantasy a litmus test for his approval.  

The two leading candidates for the Republican nomination for Arizona governor embody the separate factions in the ongoing GOP civil war between the more traditional establishment and Make America Great Again loyalists. 

Taylor Robson said she was humbled by Ducey’s endorsement. 

“Gov. Ducey has been a strong conservative leader who has trimmed government, gotten our fiscal house in order and turned Arizona into a beacon of economic opportunity," she said in a statement. “As governor, I intend to build on that legacy. I will secure the border, safeguard Arizona neighborhoods and never stop fighting for Arizonans and their families.” 

On Wednesday, the day early voting began in the Grand Canyon State, Trump issued a fresh statement in support of Lake saying “the people of Arizona have a chance to get a truly great governor, unlike the one you have right now.” (He also urged Arizonans to return their early ballots, despite his and Lake's frequent attacks on that voting method as insecure).  

Ducey's ties to Taylor Robson 

Political insiders largely expected Ducey to endorse Taylor Robson, if he decided to endorse at all, noting their past professional ties, similar traditional conservative approach and Lake’s attacks on Ducey’s record at the southern border. 

Five years ago, Ducey appointed Taylor Robson to fill a vacancy on the Arizona Board of Regents, which oversees the state’s three public universities. At the time, he lauded her business background and work in economic development, both key priorities for the Republican governor.

Taylor Robson previously founded a land use consulting firm and was an executive for the prominent developer DMB Associates, securing the land use rights to proceed with master planned communities. 

Taylor Robson, 57, resigned her position as a regent in 2021 to launch her bid for governor. She has pledged to make Arizona the small business capital of the nation through business-friendly economic policy and wants to crack down at the state’s border with Mexico, two policy goals that echo Ducey’s pledges when he ran for office eight years ago.  

She’s backed election reforms, though she has taken the noncommittal position that the 2020 election "wasn’t fair," and is the only Republican candidate for governor who has said she will accept the outcome of this year’s election. Both Ducey and Taylor Robson have said publicly campaigns should look forward and not tether themselves to a two-year-old election.

Ducey has hinted for months that he might endorse a candidate in the race. While his endorsement sends a signal to his business allies and national web of donors whom they should support, it also comes with strings attached, given his precarious position in Trump’s wing of the party and his role leading the Republican Governors Association. 

The association, which seeks to seat Republicans in governorships across the nation, rarely gets involved in primary elections, and the governor can only separate his two roles so much. Taylor Robson courted the group’s support by attending a convention in Nashville earlier this year. 

With Ducey’s backing, Taylor Robson tallies endorsements from all three of Arizona’s living Republican governors. She received support from former governors Jan Brewer and Fife Symington last year, but has lately been on an endorsement blitz, announcing the backing of former Congressman Matt Salmon after he ended his gubernatorial bid, Senate President Karen Fann and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, among others. 

Reach reporter Stacey Barchenger at stacey.barchenger@arizonarepublic.com or 480-416-5669. Follow her on Twitter @sbarchenger.

Support local journalism. Subscribe to azcentral.com today.