PHOENIX — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on Thursday gave Karrin Taylor Robson his official blessing in the Republican primary for governor, saying the former developer and small business owner is "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 a 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 endorsement comes with polls showing former television news anchor Kari Lake in a virtual dead heat with Taylor Robson.
The endorsement's timing is designed to give Taylor Robson a lift as early voting starts statewide this week for the Aug. 2 primary election.
Endorsement Not A Surprise
The Taylor Robson endorsement doesn't come as a surprise.
Her policy platform closely mirrors what Ducey, who is term limited, has done during his almost eight years in office. And it was Ducey who elevated her public profile by appointing Taylor Robson to the Arizona Board of Regents, the governing board for the state's three public universities, in 2017.
Ducey's shunning of Lake also doesn't come as a surprise. The Donald Trump acolyte has repeatedly antagonized the governor over the last several months, much as Trump has.
In May, Ducey fired back, telling the Arizona Republic's Stacey Barchenger that Lake was "making things up."
When asked whether he would endorse a potential successor, Ducey had said he might, "at the time and place of my choosing."
What's At Stake For Ducey
Ducey has more at stake in the governor's race than simply clearing the way for a preferred successor.
As chair of the Republican Governors' Association, Ducey has worked across the country to elect governors who aren't cut from the Trump mold.
There's a lot of money on the line: The RGA announced four months ago that it booked $10 million in TV air time in Arizona for the fall general election campaign, the largest expenditure on any one state.
The Arizona governor's race is being watched nationwide as another test of whether a Trump-endorsed election denier - in this case, Lake - can win a statewide primary.
Polling shows Republican voters view Trump more favorably than Ducey, Lake or Taylor Robson.
Blowback From Trump Expected
Blowback from Trump is virtually a given.
Ducey's failure to block the certification of Democrat Joe Biden's 2020 election victory in Arizona marked the governor's first break with Trump during his four years in the White House.
Trump has never forgiven him.
Trump endorsed Lake in September 2021 with a shot at Ducey. He said Lake "will do a far better job than RINO Gov. Doug Ducey."
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Former TV Anchor Backed by Far Right
Lake was a Phoenix TV anchor for almost 25 years, most of that time at the local Fox affiliate.
Her voter registration history shows she bounced from independent to Obama Democrat to Trump Republican.
A woman who was welcomed into television viewers' homes has morphed into a far-right candidate for governor who portrays herself as an insurgent.
Lake has been endorsed by some of the most extreme members of the Republican Party, including Congressman Paul Gosar and Arizona State Sen. Wendy Rogers.
She has relentlessly promoted the Trump lie that the 2020 election was stolen. In a recent debate, Lake asserted that all of the nation's problems could be traced to undocumented election fraud.
Lake's positions on border security have ranged from adopting amnesty for migrants, when she was a news anchor, to using military force to repel an "invasion," in a recent TV ad.
Salmon's Impact on Primary
Lake's lead in the polls has shrunk steadily over the last several months as Taylor Robson, who is married to billionaire home builder Ed Robson, has spent upwards of a million dollars a week on advertising.
A survey released Wednesday by Phoenix-based OH Predictive found Taylor Robson benefited most from former Congressman Matt Salmon's departure from the governor's race a week ago.
Lake led Robson by five points, 40 percent to 35 percent, with Salmon out of the race, according to the survey. Lake's lead with Salmon in the race was 39 percent to 31 percent. Salmon polled at six percent.
The poll's margin of error is plus or minus 4.3 percent.
The survey was conducted from June 30 to July 2.
Salmon ended his campaign on June 28 and threw his support to Taylor Robson the next day.
The two other candidates in the Republican primary polled in the low single digits: contractor Scott Neely was at three percent, and Paola Tulliani-Zen, a former cookie supplier to Costco, was at two percent. Undecided voters accounted for 21 percent of the respondents.
A poll done for Salmon before he pulled out of the race showed Lake and Taylor Robson in a dead heat: 38 percent of respondents backed Taylor Robson, while 37 percent supported Lake.
Arizonans will go to the polls this November for the midterm elections. Here's everything you need to know leading up to election night.