GOP primary voters choosing from 6 for governor

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX (AP) -- Six candidates who have spent months vying to be the Republican Party's nominee in the race for Arizona governor will finally see if their efforts were successful.

Voters head to the polls Tuesday after the candidates attended more than two dozen forums and debates and collectively spent more than $10 million on the race.

In the hunt for the nomination are Secretary of State Ken Bennett, state Treasurer Doug Ducey, former GoDaddy executive Christine Jones, former Mesa Mayor Scott Smith, former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas and former California congressman Frank Riggs.

The six-way race means it's possible the winner will move on to the November general election having earned less than 30 percent of the vote. The winner faces Democrat Fred DuVal, who is unopposed in the primary.

Ducey, Smith and Jones have run the most visible campaigns. Smith has the endorsement of Gov. Jan Brewer but has struggled with fundraising, while Jones and Ducey have ample funding from supporters, their own big bank accounts and outside groups supporting their bids.

Ducey has painted himself as the front-runner in the race and cites a broad coalition of business and political leaders as supporters.

Bennett and Thomas are running with public funding, which gives them just over $750,000 for the primary.

Smith supports Brewer's Medicaid expansion plan, the new Common Core school standards and the governor's strategy for drawing new businesses to the state. Ducey has been ambivalent on Medicaid expansion and said it is said it was likely to fail in the long term so the state needs to prepare. He supports alternatives to the state-run plan.

Jones has embraced immigration as the biggest issue in the campaign, saying Arizona's borders need to be secured and that she'll use the National Guard to do it and send President Barack Obama the bill. Ducey also said he use the Guard. Smith calls those promises empty, and said he'll urge lawmakers in Washington to handle the issue.

Ducey and Jones plan to attend the state GOP's election night party at a downtown Phoenix hotel, and Brewer plans to attend as well. Smith plans his own event in Mesa, while Bennett will be at his Phoenix campaign headquarters watching ballot returns and may head to the main GOP event.

Whoever wins the gubernatorial primary will need to act quickly to heal a party that has been divided by the fight. Ducey, Jones and Smith have each been hit with attack ads, which can turn off voters.

Brewer said last week after an event for Smith that she hopes the party unites after the primary, no matter who wins.

"We all know that during a primary, things get kind of hot and heavy and a lot of things are said," Brewer said. "And after Tuesday night, I hope we can all come together and be Republicans under one tent. That's what I would strive for."

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