PHOENIX (AP) -- Mesa Mayor Scott Smith entered the crowded race for the Republican nomination for Arizona governor Thursday, ending months of speculation about whether the leader of the state's third-largest city would throw his hat into the ring.
Smith filed paperwork to enter the race at the state Capitol and said his experience as a business leader and leader of the state's third-largest city makes him a standout choice for the nomination.
"I am unique because I've been the CEO of a city and a business," Smith said. "I've balanced budgets and had to balance a budget for an entire city organization.
"I've brought new businesses in, I know what it's like to sit down, what the Apples of the world are looking at," he said. "I've been there. I've worked on a regional and a national level to define policy that relates to specifics on how a city, and how a region and how a state works. No one else has that experience."
Smith is joining a Republican primary election field that includes two statewide officeholders - Secretary of State Ken Bennett and Treasurer Doug Ducey. Ducey also was CEO of a large company, Cold Stone Creamery, before running for office.
Others seeking the Republican nomination include former GoDaddy legal counsel Christine Jones, state Sen. Al Melvin and former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas.
Bennett, a former state Senate president, formally announced his candidacy in November.
Smith supports Gov. Jan Brewer's Medicaid expansion plan and immigration reform, something that won't appeal to conservative primary voters that the other candidates are aggressively wooing. He declined to lay out his opinion on other hot-button topics like gay marriage or legalizing marijuana.
"Like any campaign, we're starting here on the big time, we're talking about why we're in the race," smith said. "There is a time and a place to talk about these things, and right now we're not going to eat the whole meal. Right now, these are the nice little hors d'oeuvres, thanks for coming along, and it's a long trek and we'll cover every vision and every plan and every issue that we've got."
Smith owned a homebuilding company before selling to a national building firm and entering politics. He was elected as mayor of Mesa in 2008 and ran unopposed for a second term in 2012. He's current president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors but plans to resign from both posts by mid-year.
The Republican primary winner will likely face Democrat Fred DuVal in the November general election. DuVal is a former Board of Regents member and a former gubernatorial aide.
Smith, 57, is married and the father of three grown children. He said he plans to run using private financing and won't take money from the state's Clean Elections Commission.
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