- Associated Press - Sunday, April 20, 2014

PHOENIX (AP) - Two Republican candidates for Arizona governor in an already crowded field could have a critical advantage thanks to support close to home, the Arizona Capitol Times reported (http://bit.ly/1jWCfT1) earlier this month.

With at least seven possible contenders in the Republican primary in August, a candidate could require as little as 14 percent of the vote to win. In a tight race, a winner could only need 20 to 25 percent of the vote.

Geographic bases alone might not seem like enough, said Margaret Kenski, a Republican pollster. However, any advantage helps when dealing with a closely contested or crowded race.

“I would look at those (bases) as advantages in extremely tight races with no other particular distinguishing factors between the candidates,” Kenski said. “In this case, though, it’s a statewide race. (That geographic advantage) is terribly important.”

The low figures mean Mesa Mayor Scott Smith and Secretary of State Ken Bennett could get a significant geographical boost because of their name recognition locally. Other high-profile candidates include State Treasurer Doug Ducey, who lives in Paradise Valley, and former GoDaddy executive Christine Jones, who lives in Phoenix. But Ducey and Jones have never served in public office at the city or regional level. Jones is a first-time political candidate.

Political observers say Smith has strong name identification in Mesa and its surrounding suburbs. Meanwhile, Bennett has a great deal of support from Prescott and Yavapai County, where he started out politically.

Brian Murray, a consultant for Smith’s campaign, said Smith will play to the advantages he has.

“I don’t think anybody should discount the fact that the mayor of Mesa is probably going to do quite well in Mesa, and from an electoral standpoint that is extremely helpful,” Murray said.

But others say some conservatives may not flock to Smith, who is viewed as moderate. Republican political consultant Nathan Sproul said there’s a good chance GOP voters will see him as not conservative enough.

Scott Smith is not mayor of Mesa because of Republican primary voters turning out,” Sproul said.

Kyle Moyer, a consultant for Bennett’s campaign, said his candidate should do well with most of rural Arizona, pointing to Beneett’s eight years on the Prescott Town Council in the 1980s and eight years in the Legislature.

“We will see trending on that as we move through the cycle,” Moyer said.

Murray said it might be hard for Bennett to appeal to voters outside of Yavapai County.

Election data shows that 8.2 percent of 586,000 votes in the 2010 Arizona GOP gubernatorial primary were from Mesa. More than 6 percent were from Yavapai County.

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Information from: Arizona Capitol Times, http://www.arizonacapitoltimes.com

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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