MESA, Ariz. -- Gov. Jan Brewer on Thursday endorsed former Mesa Mayor Scott Smith in his bid to succeed her as Arizona's governor.
"Scott Smith has been through the Great Recession as mayor, faced the toughest challenges head-on, and has left his city better than when he found it," Brewer said during a media conference at Cubs Park. "He didn't shy away from leading in a time of crisis, and, most importantly, he told the citizens the truth. That's what we need in our next governor."
The Republican field is crowded. On the ballot are:
- Mike Aloisi (write-in)
- Ken Bennett
- Doug Doucey
- Christine Jones
- Alice Lukasik (write-in)
- Al Melvin (withdrawn)
- Frank Riggs
- Scott Smith
- Andrew Thomas
The governor's much-coveted support is crucial.
Brewer has been courted by the top candidates as they look to break away from the pack in a tight race. She said Thursday that Smith shares her values on Medicaid expansion, Common Core, the economy and border.
Arizona's governor, who took office when Janet Napolitano resigned to head up the the Department of Homeland Security in 2009, has made a name for herself nationally with her tough stances on immigration -- an issue that has dominated the race since the surge of immigrant children and families from Central America. Smith is considered the most moderate of the candidates on the issue, however.
Dennis Welch, 3TV's political editor, said it will be key for Smith to cash in on the momentum of Thursday's announcement and build his war chest.
"He's got to monetize this," Welch said. "He's got to be able to take this momentum and raise some money. We all know he's been grossly outspent by Christine Jones and Doug Ducey in this race."
Smith needs more than Brewer's official announcement, though. He needs her presence as he campaigns.
"Another huge factor in this ... to make this something that could really have an impact on this campaign: This governor has to go out and stump for him on the campaign trail," Welch continued. "She is a fantastic retail politicker. When you get her in a room with voters out there, she can really connect to them. She's a big name. She should draw a crowd."
Ducey, who has been doing well in the polls, also picked up a big endorsement -- former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
"I believe Doug has the right combination to serve Arizona with his proven private sector skills and his record of conservative leadership," Palin wrote on her Facebook page Wednesday.
Arizona's primary is Aug. 26. Early voting started last Thursday.
The winner of the primary will face Democrat Fred Duval, Americans Elect candidate John Lewis Mealer, and Libertarian Barry Hess.