Here is what you need to know about everyone running for governor in Arizona this year.
Carly Henry, The Republic |

Ask the gubernatorial candidates from both parties how to expand Arizona’s economy, and all will point to an educated workforce and new, well-paying jobs.

But aside from increasing education funding, they largely differ on how to get there.

On the Republican side, incumbent Gov. Doug Ducey and challenger Ken Bennett cite deregulation, minimal taxation and trade as key strategies for attracting and retaining high-profile job creators. 

Democrats have focused more on developing and protecting workers. They pitch ideas from free community college and expanded infrastructure to universal health care and a public bank.

Here’s a look at the highlights of each candidate’s economic proposal, compiled using comments made in public forums, shared in interviews with The Arizona Republic and included in policy plans provided by their campaigns.

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Doug Ducey

Ducey has boasted about cutting “needless regulations and red tape,” simplifying the tax code and drawing more than 300 companies to Arizona during his first term.

He has vowed to build on that “momentum and foundation” if reelected, continuing to recruit businesses to move here and break down barriers — regulations, presumably — “that keep people from meaningful work.”

He also has promised to increase funding for vocational education.

In terms of economic partnerships, Ducey has emphasized maintaining the positive trade connection with Mexico he feels he has solidified over the past three years.

“I think, in many ways, Arizona has been a lead state and an ambassador for what is possible with Mexico relationships, and it’s the right and important thing to do,” he told The Republic‘s editorial board, which operates independently from the newsroom. 

“It’s our largest trading partner, times four. I think there’s all kinds of things we can do to continue to grow that trade relationship.”

Ken Bennett

Bennett, a former secretary of state and state Senate president, said he is primarily running to “return fiscal responsibility” to the state budget.

“I watched a previous governor (Janet Napolitano) 10 years ago engage in making promises of spending with tricks and gimmicks and one-time money and using money out of the rainy-day fund,” he said. “It wiped the state out, and we’ve suffered terribly for it for the last seven or eight years.”

Bennett said he feels Ducey is now using similar tactics to fund the teacher-pay increase spurred by the #RedForEd movement this spring. 

“If we’re going to increase spending substantially to solve this teacher-pay thing, then we have to tell (voters) how we’re going to pay for it,” he said.

He has also criticized Ducey for signing off on the state’s new “highway safety fee,” saying it amounts to a tax on residents.

Bennett has not published a detailed economic-policy plan.

Steve Farley

Farley believes infrastructure improvements, particularly involving public transit and fixing “crumbling highways,” are essential to helping the whole state thrive. He has said projects should focus on rural areas, not just Maricopa and Pima counties.

“This has been a problem with Gov. Doug Ducey’s economic-development strategy,” Farley said. “He is not investing in infrastructure that actually helps everybody.”

Farley also wants to fully restore funding previously cut from job-preparation programs at the high-school and community-college levels, and better fund the state’s community colleges themselves.

“Our community colleges are an ideal platform for a lifetime of training and retraining in an economy wherein entire industries appear and disappear overnight,” his plan states. “People who lose their jobs mid-career must have a place to acquire new job skills, and our community-college system is ideally positioned to do just that.”

Farley believes the state should offer micro-lending opportunities to Arizona start-ups to “nurture that entrepreneurial spirit” so their businesses can take root here.

And he wants to establish a task force to examine how to reach quality health care for 100 percent of Arizonans, he said, so they don’t need to stay in “dead-end jobs” to get medical care.

Kelly Fryer

Fryer also has stressed the need for infrastructure enhancements. She has proposed a “Vehicle Miles Traveled” user fee, which she said would help the state shift its reliance on gas taxes.

“A VMT will also be a new source of funding to expand public transportation and invest in renewable energy technology across the state, creating jobs while protecting the environment,” her plan says.

Though Fryer believes education is a critical component of economic growth, she has said “education alone cannot solve the problems that we face in our state” and “we need to be investing in our people right now.”

If elected, she said she would “take a serious look” at the public-bank model used in North Dakota to provide capital to farmers and business owners. And she would push for a child-care tax credit, universal health-care system and broader access to paid sick days, according to her plan. 

Fryer has also vowed to “stop giving tax incentives to (companies) who promise to create jobs” and start rewarding companies “who actually do it.”

“The gap between the very wealthy and everybody else in our state gets larger and larger all the time,” she said. “I think we need a 15-county economic-development plan, and one of the first things I’ll do as governor is to create a task force to put that plan together.”

David Garcia

Garcia also has said Arizona’s economy is “doing well for only those at the top.”

“We’ve got some huge inequities,” he said. “There may be jobs, but Arizonans have to hold down two or three of them to pay the bills.”

Changing that dynamic starts with giving all Arizonans a chance at a “fantastic education,” from preschool through college, Garcia says.

He has billed universal access to community college as a “shared commitment between the state investing in students and students themselves having skin in the game,” since students would be responsible for living expenses and the work required to complete their degrees.

“The idea is simple. Invest in Arizonans to complete an Associate’s Degree or certificate in two years,” he wrote in an op-ed published in The Republic.

“The degrees should lead to entrance in a university, and the certificates should focus in high-demand, high-skill areas. These skilled workers then enter the workforce without a suffocating debt burden and are able to contribute to Arizona’s economy for the rest of their careers.”

Garcia also supports “moving away from dependence on real-estate economies” and seeking opportunities in sustainable agriculture, aerospace, cybersecurity, solar and other areas.

He believes the state should give preference to Arizona businesses and entrepreneurs in public contracts.


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