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Ducey backs Taylor Robson over Trump candidate in Ariz. governor race

Republican candidates for Arizona governor Karrin Taylor Robson, left, and Paola Tulliani Zen arrive on the set before a PBS televised debate in Phoenix on June 29. (Ross D. Franklin/AP)

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) on Thursday endorsed real estate developer Karrin Taylor Robson in the battleground state’s GOP primary race for governor, arguing that she is best positioned to succeed him over a Trump-backed candidate.

The endorsement puts Ducey, a two-term governor who is head of the national Republican Governors Association, head-to-head against former president Donald Trump and his favored candidate, former TV anchor Kari Lake.

Speculation had been growing for months over whether Ducey would endorse in a bitter primary race largely defined by illegal immigration, border security, the economy and whether the two leading candidates accepted the results of the 2020 presidential election. Ducey is term-limited.

“I’ve looked at each of the candidates for Governor this year, and there’s no question who is the proven conservative ready to lead on Day One: Karrin Taylor Robson,” Ducey said in a written statement. “I’m proud to offer Karrin my complete endorsement.”

That support could motivate moderate Republicans and independent voters, a crucial voting bloc, to back Taylor Robson.

The primary is Aug. 2. The leading candidate for the Democratic nomination is Secretary of State Katie Hobbs.

Ducey generally has been in good standing with many traditional conservatives but less so with Trump and grass-roots Republicans after he silenced a phone call from the former president in December 2020 as he certified the state’s 2020 election results. Trump has mocked Ducey and dismissed him as a RINO — Republican in name only — for his unwillingness to back Trump’s false claims of widespread electoral fraud and a rigged 2020 election.

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Ducey entered the fray in the governor’s race a day after early voting began and a week after a rowdy televised debate that left Arizona voters with little policy substance but a clear sense of the acrimony among the candidates.

At times, the moderator pleaded for respectful dialogue even as candidates loudly spoke over him.

Republicans Scott Neely and Paola Tulliani Zen also are vying for the nomination, but the real race is between Taylor Robson and Lake. Another candidate, former congressman Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.), dropped out before the debate and endorsed Taylor Robson.

In a defining moment during the debate, Lake reiterated her long-held position that the election was stolen from Trump and that Joe Biden “lost the election and he shouldn’t be in the White House.”

Taylor Robson said the 2020 election “was absolutely not fair.” She was the lone candidate to say she would accept the results of the upcoming election.

Taylor Robson is a native Arizonan and lifelong Republican who entered politics while working for President Ronald Reagan decades ago. She is widely considered the most conventional Republican candidate on the primary ballot and supports Ducey’s record of advancing conservative policies such as expansion of school choice and tax cuts.

“As Governor, I intend to build on that legacy,” Taylor Robson said in a statement.

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She is locked in a competitive battle with Lake, a longtime household name who left her job with Phoenix’s Fox TV affiliate last year and mounted an outsider bid for governor.

Lake has attracted the support of a large faction of GOP voters even as her conservative credentials are under fire. Roadside campaign signs around the state seek to remind voters of her past as a registered Democrat during the early years of President Barack Obama’s first term.

Lake earned the backing of Trump, who quickly saw in her an ally who echoed his unfounded claims of a stolen election in a state he narrowly lost in 2020. On Wednesday, the former president ridiculed Ducey in a statement of his own and encouraged supporters to vote for Lake: “She has my Complete and Total Endorsement!”

Ducey’s endorsement was made in his personal capacity. The Republican Governors Association will not deploy resources in the Arizona race, the organization said.

“The RGA does not get involved in open-seat GOP primaries,” RGA spokesman Will Reinert told The Post.

Until this year, Ducey has generally stayed out of primary contests in Arizona.

In March, when Ducey ruled out a run for the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate, he signaled an intent to weigh in on Arizona races.

“We have a strong field of candidates in Arizona and I will be actively supporting our nominee — and perhaps weighing in before the primary,” Ducey told donors in a letter.

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Divided government: Republicans narrowly won back control of the House, while Democrats will keep control of the Senate, creating a split Congress.

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