PORTLAND, MAINE – Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey is optimistic about expanding the number of GOP governors.
Ducey, who is in his second straight year steering the Republican Governors Association, which helps elect and re-election GOP governors, is looking toward November when roughly three-quarters of the states hold gubernatorial showdowns.
"Last year we had great success with Glenn Youngkin," Ducey told Fox News as he pointed to Youngkin, the businessman and first-time candidate who won Virginia's gubernatorial election last November, the first Republican elected to the office in a dozen years.
"This year we have 36 races, so I see the opportunity to really expand this map," Ducey emphasized Wednesday at the National Governors Association’s annual summer meeting, which is being held this year in Portland, Maine.
One race currently at the top of Ducey's mind is in his home state of Arizona.
The governor, who is term-limited and in the eighth and final year in office, last week endorsed real estate developer and Arizona Board of Regents member Karrin Taylor Robson for next month’s GOP gubernatorial primary. Ducey argued that Taylor Robson is the best candidate to succeed him in the field of Republican contenders that also includes former TV news anchor Kari Lake, who for months has been heavily supported by former President Donald Trump.
Lake and Taylor Robson are the two polling front-runners in a field of four GOP candidates running in the state’s Aug. 2 primary. Illegal immigration, border security, the economy, and Trump’s unproven claims that the 2020 presidential election was "rigged" and "stolen" have been the top issues in the primary battle.
"Karrin Taylor Robson is the best conservative in the race for governor," Ducey stressed. "I've said that I'm going to care very much about who my successor is. And Karrin Taylor Robson is the real deal. She's a pro wall pro-life, pro-gun conservative. She's got a record of success in the private sector. She's a native of Arizona. She's a mother of four. She's had success in the business sector. And I think she'll make an excellent governor."
Earlier this week, Trump announced that he would be traveling to Arizona to hold a rally on Saturday for Lake and other candidates running in other Arizona races. The rally raises the stakes in what seems to be a proxy war between the former president and the conservative governor.
Ducey incurred the wrath of then-President Trump for certifying now-President Biden’s razor-thin victory in Arizona in the 2020 election. The conservative governor famously publicly silenced a phone call from Trump in December 2020 — as he certified his state’s results.
While the governor has long stood by his decision, saying he was "loyal to the Constitution and the law," Trump has repeatedly slammed Ducey, calling him "one of the worst Governors in America" and a "RINO," which stands for Republican in Name Only.
Since leaving the White House a year and a half ago, Trump has repeatedly flirted with making another presidential run in 2024, much to the chagrin of many Republicans who worry that the former president’s constant relitigating of his 2020 election loss to President Biden is a major distraction that could hurt the GOP’s strong chances of making major gains in November’s elections.
"Elections are always about the future," Ducey said in a not-so-subtle jab at the former president.
There is plenty of speculation that Trump may announce a 2024 run ahead of the midterms. When asked how that would impact November’s elections, Ducey told Fox New "I got out of the prediction business in 2016. So why would I try to predict something that's proven so unpredictable?"
Ducey added "I think the most important thing that people that are on the ballot can do right now is to focus on their race and to focus on the future. That's how to be productive and anything that gets in the way of that will be an obstacle they have to overcome."
Looking back at his tenure steering Arizona, Ducey said "There's many things I'm proud of," as he touted that "Arizona's economy has been transformed" and that "now we have an excellent relationship with Mexico. It's never been better while being incredibly tough on the border."
"But I think the things that I'm most proud of is that Arizona has been an exporter of excellent ideas, of good policy. Things like the education savings account, ESA’s, where parents are going to get $7,000. Every parent in our state, over 1.1 million parents, are going to be able to send their child to the school of their choice with their tax dollars. We've done things like that," he added.
When asked about his political future, Ducey said "I'm focused on my day job right now… I’ve got 171 days left so I'm going to make every moment count as Arizona governor."
National Republicans unsuccessfully urged Ducey to run for the Senate this year, in hopes of toppling first-term Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly, however, Ducey declined. "I've served two terms as governor; I've enjoyed every day of it. I really, this is the job that I've wanted," he said.
As for his political future, the governor said "I'm open-minded to what's next. But I don't have any specific answer for you."