- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 21, 2014

PHOENIX (AP) - Former Mesa Mayor Scott Smith on Wednesday filed nominating petitions to get on the Republican ballot as a governor’s candidate in the Aug. 26 primary, making him the third of seven major GOP candidates to pass that mark.

Smith filed nearly twice the required number of signatures needed to qualify, turning in more than 10,500 signatures come from all 15 counties at the secretary of state’s office.

Smith joins Secretary of State Ken Bennett and former Internet company executive Christine Jones in qualifying. The remaining Republican hopefuls have until next Wednesday to file.

They include state Sen. Al Melvin, who said Wednesday he’s collected enough signatures and plans to file Tuesday. He is one of only three candidates running with public funding, and said he has not yet collected enough $5 contributions to qualify for more than $750,000 for the primary race. He said he’s setting a goal of having those contributions by the end of June.

Melvin said the “clean elections” funding will allow him to go up against at least two millionaires - Jones and state Treasurer Doug Ducey.

“I wouldn’t be in the Senate today without it, and it’s allowing me to be a serious candidate for governor, and I appreciate it,” Melvin said.

The other publicly funded candidates are Bennett and former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas.

Thomas has been missing from dozens of candidate forums in recent months, and hasn’t returned repeated calls seeking an update on his candidacy.

Melvin said he’s seen him at a couple of gun shows collecting signatures and expects his to qualify for both the ballot and clean elections funding.

Former U.S. Rep. Frank Riggs’ campaign said he plans to file Tuesday as well. Ducey hasn’t announced when he’ll file.

The Republican primary is without a front-runner as candidates try to scratch out a leading position in a crowded field.

Smith has aligned himself with many of the positions Gov. Jan Brewer has taken in recent years that angered conservative Republicans, including support for an expanded state Medicaid program and new Common Core school standards strongly opposed by my GOP conservatives.

“Gov. Brewer stands I think as a great example of leaders who make decisions that matter, leaders who are compasses, not weather vanes. And that’s a theme I’m going to follow in our campaign,” Smith said.

Brewer hasn’t endorsed a candidate, but she’s met with Smith recently.

Smith said he’ll campaign on his leadership background in both private business and government, noting that he pulled Mesa through tough times by cutting $63 million from the budget while maintaining services.

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