Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona drew criticism from some fellow Republicans in November for what in other years would merely be routine: certifying the state’s election. But it was only the second time a Democratic presidential candidate had won the state in 50 years, and many Republicans supported former President Donald J. Trump’s efforts to subvert the results.
This weekend, the Arizona Republican Party is expected to censure Mr. Ducey, who easily won re-election in 2018, Cindy McCain and former Senator Jeff Flake during a state party meeting Saturday. Mr. Ducey, who said he considers himself a conservative Republican, has mostly tried to ignore the scolding and traveled to Washington to attend President Biden’s inauguration. We spoke with him about the political atmosphere in Arizona and nationally, and what the censure vote might mean for the G.O.P.’s future.
The interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
What stood out to you about the president’s inauguration and your time there now?
It’s incredibly special to be at any inauguration. I thought the president hit all the right notes in his speech. And it’s a new beginning for a new administration. It was incredible to me how locked down the city of Washington was, the amount of security that was there and armed troops on the streets along with the fencing and razor wire. And of course, that was in response to what happened a few weeks earlier.
Just two weeks after the riot at the Capitol, President Biden spent most of his inaugural speech talking about unity. Do you think it’s possible for the country to unite in this moment when there are so many divisions?
When I saw that President Biden’s theme was unity, I thought it might be a bridge too far. But I do think his speech presented all Americans with what is possible. And I especially liked that he talked about how we can stop this ‘uncivil war.’
We have the ability to continue to disagree, to press our policy concerns forward. And I’m certain that we will have many disagreements. But I thought for an inauguration speech, it was fitting. We are divided as a country right now. We can have a more appropriate discussion and debate than what we saw several weeks prior at the nation’s capital.
Since 2016 Republicans in Arizona have lost both the Senate seats and lost the presidential race in 2020.
What do you think the party needs to do to win statewide in 2022?
The candidate is going to matter. And I also think for Republicans across the country, we need to be thinking in addition and multiplication mode rather than subtraction and division. And in both races that I’ve had as governor, that’s the posture that I’ve had. Getting out into rooms where maybe Republicans haven’t spoken to them before is something I’ve embraced and enjoy. I think that our results speak for themselves, that is the proper way to earn votes across the state.
You met with Senator Mitch McConnell while you were in Washington. Are you open to running for the Senate in 2022, when you will be termed out of the governor’s office?
I’m not running for the United States Senate. I got to know Leader McConnell through the open seat with the passing of John McCain. The purpose of the meeting was to talk about the Covid-19 relief package.
Are you ruling out running for Senate?
I’m not running for the United States Senate. It’s a no. I’m 100 percent focused on being the governor of the state of Arizona. I’ve accepted the role as the chairman of the R.G.A. So I’ve got a full-time job and then I’ve got a full-time job beyond that. And that’s what my focus is.
Is the Arizona G.O.P. hurting itself by taking this vote against you and Mrs. McCain and Senator Flake?
I’ve given little to no time to thinking about that. I’ll stand by what I said before. I think we’re better and stronger as a party when we’re adding people rather than the alternative.
What do you think the political fallout would be? Does the party risk becoming some sort of political fringe group by voting against its own two-term governor?
We’ve had this type of behavior in the water before in the state of Arizona, actually, several times. So this fever will break as well. And they’re going to do what they’re going to do.
Do you think a splintered party like this can win?
Many times it’s been splintered before and the Republican Party’s won statewide. And I actually am not going to give it any more attention. The national media seems to be giving it enough. It’s really had nothing to do with our agenda here, my election or re-election. I’m confident we’ll be able to overcome whatever obstacles are in our way.
When you think of Arizona Republicans, not just the party activists, is it a party of McCain’s or a party of Trump’s?
It’s a party of both. It’s a broad coalition. It should be a big tent. There are plenty of people in this party that have great affection and respect for John McCain, his service, heroism and legacy, and we’re also supportive of President Trump.
Let’s talk about the Republican Party nationally. How do you think the party moves on from Trump without alienating his supporters? Is there some sort of reorientation that needs to happen?
I think the party is better off when it sets an agenda and is actually presenting good ideas and good policies. It’s all also good when it’s stopping or advocating against ideas that we believe hurt people or may have good intentions but do not have good results.
And when we’re focused on Election Day too early or reminiscing about what could have happened on the last Election Day, it doesn’t always result in positive next steps. You’re talking about the next race and these are now two years away, the best thing you can have is a good record, a good candidate and a good campaign.
I’ll ask you a little bit about the governing part. Arizona is an epicenter of the pandemic right now. What do you think needs to change for the rates to go down there?
Our rates are going down at this time. What we’ve just experienced is our second wave. I don’t think you can ever anticipate what you know in this virus. It’s vicious and it’s unpredictable. And no one said there would just be two waves. We are seeing our hospital capacity in I.C.U. capacity decrease, and we’re also seeing our discharge from the hospitals increase. So those are all good signs.
But the only time a solution has been presented has been when there is a vaccine available. So our focus right now is to make sure we do all the steps to slow the spread, to protect the lives of people inside the state, while at the same time working as quickly as possible with a real urgency and sense of purpose to get this vaccine in people’s arms.
You’re the governor of a border state, who has talked a lot about border security. Mr. Trump identified himself so strongly with detentions and with the wall. With him gone, what do you think happens with border security there?
I sure hope that the new administration has a concern for public safety in the state of Arizona and our border states. I don’t think that’s too much to ask. So I’d be hopeful that they would want to embrace the good things that have happened in terms of protection around the border.
Mexico is Arizona’s number one trade partner, but we also had very real issues at the border four years ago around drug cartels, human trafficking and child sex trafficking and by any metric those have been dramatically reduced. And I’m hopeful that the administration will continue to partner to protect the people, schools and neighborhoods of the people of Arizona.
Were you surprised that Trump supporters were divided essentially into a group between people who stood with him when he wanted to overturn the election and then people like you who did not?
I look at it differently. I couldn’t have been more supportive of President Trump or his re-election up through Election Day. After Nov. 3, the job is to count the votes, tabulate the number, audit the vote and make sure it’s accurate. All 15 counties in Arizona certified the vote. I took an oath to uphold the law and abide by the Constitution. I did my duty. I have been outspoken that I think the people that have been misinforming Arizonans are wrong and they shouldn’t be doing that and they should be held accountable for that.
What should being held accountable look like? And how do you counter that misinformation?
I countered it in the Oval Office with the president. I talked about the accuracy of Arizona’s vote, how we put mail-in voting in place and reformed it, and improved it every two years since 1992. What we’re doing in Arizona is proven and it’s tried and true. And when the administration did take their suit to the Supreme Court, Arizona wasn’t named in it.
In terms of the people that have been lying and misinforming the public, well, that’s up to the voters. The voters have to hold them accountable. And it seems like they’ve also got some letters from private sector companies wanting to hold them accountable for their language as well.
Do you think Arizona congressmen Andy Biggs or Paul Gosar should be expelled from the House for trying to block certification of Arizona’s Electoral College votes?
I think people should be exposed for what they’ve said and be held accountable for the statements that they’ve made. Ultimately in these offices, you report to the people and the people make the final judgment. And in Congress, their peers can make a judgment.
Would you support primaries against them?
We’re two years away from any elections, so I’m not going to take that. I want to let politics stand down.
How is that possible to let politics stand down a bit in this atmosphere by being the governor?
By leading with a policy agenda that you want to move forward through your legislature.
Do you think Trump is a weakened force without Twitter? Do you expect he will be a strong force in politics for a long time to come?
President Trump is a dominant voice in politics and, of course, in the Republican Party and social media was a way that he was able to communicate. So having him off social media has been unique because we haven’t heard from him except for the public appearances and speeches that he’s given.
But this is a guy that has found a way to overcome obstacles in the past. And, of course, the venues and platforms are not the only venues and platforms that are out there. And I am someone that believes that we should have free speech and more speech is better than less speech. And I do believe the rules should be applied evenly and I don’t believe they’ve been applied evenhandedly.
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