Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on the Border Crisis, Election Integrity, and Kamala Harris - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on the Border Crisis, Election Integrity, and Kamala Harris
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey is interviewed by Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform at The American Spectator's annual gala.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey was the keynote speaker at The American Spectator‘s 53rd annual Robert L. Bartley Gala on October 14, 2021. He was joined by Grover Norquist, founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform, for a fireside chat.

You can watch or read the conversation below.

Grover Norquist: Right now, we all have the opportunity and the honor of learning from the governor of Arizona. I first met the governor of Arizona, Doug Ducey, when he was treasury secretary and was campaigning to kill a sales tax increase that the Republican governor had put in. And he said “This will not pass,” and he won and the governor lost. And later he became governor. Over at Americans for Tax Reform we work with taxpayer activists, we work with conservatives in all of the 57 states and I can tell you that in Arizona, we collectively have had more success over the last several years than we have in other states and, I’m going to ask this question later, but they have a one vote majority in the Senate, Republicans, and a one vote majority in the House, and he just passed the largest tax decrease in the history of Arizona, maybe of any state, taking the income tax down to 2.5 percent in preparation for phasing it down to zero, where one House member and one Senate member each were quite convinced they were John McCain and they wanted to be on TV for two weeks before they made any decisions. This governor has not only done more sound conservative governance, but he’s also worked the internal sausage-making of politics. 

Governor, you run the Republican Governors Association, not just Arizona, which is a wonderful state, but you are responsible for saving the entire republic by winning governors’ races in 2022. How many Republican governorships are up, how many Democratic governorships are up? Just a sense of the size of it. We’ll get into the likelihood later. 

Gov. Doug Ducey: I want to say first thank you to Grover for moderating tonight. And it’s a real thrill to be here with Bob Tyrrell and Bob Luddy and I’m so grateful for how much The American Spectator has supported the conservative cause and what we’ve been able to accomplish in Arizona in a very short period of time. Grover alluded to the fact that I’m the chairman of the Republican Governors Association, and that’s the group that’s in charge of electing and reelecting Republican governors. It’s been the most successful political operation in the country for the last two decades. Today we have 27 sitting Republican governors. We’re the only majority Republican conference in the country and we have 38 races in this next cycle, and these races are in our most competitive and expensive states, places like Florida, Georgia, Texas, Ohio, Arizona. We feel confident, we’re very good at protecting our incumbents and keeping red states red, but one thing that’s unusual about this upcoming cycle is we have real pickup opportunities. Nowhere ever has the contrast between Republican governors and Democratic governors been more evident. If it weren’t for Republican governors, the country would have been shut down for the last 20 months. It was only Republican governors who said we can protect lives and we can protect livelihoods and we can protect our small businesses and educate our children. So we think we have real pickup opportunities as well in places like Maine, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Kansas, and New Mexico. And our first big win, if we can keep pressing through the next several weeks is going to be in Virginia with Glenn Youngkin. He’s doing a great job, he’s a great candidate with an incredible record from the private sector. He’s doing everything right, Terry is doing everything wrong, and we just need to get out the vote on election day. 

Grover Norquist: Governor Ducey, be sure to walk through some of the specifics and the key opportunities for Republicans, conservatives, to win. How do you see the state of the modern Republican Party and the broader conservative movement moving forward in the next four to five years? 

Gov. Doug Ducey: So I think in terms of the state of the Republican Party, if you look at the results in Arizona in say 2014, the year I ran, which was a good year for Republicans, we were able to win by 12. ‘18 was the reelect year, we were able to win by an even larger margin of the Hispanic vote against an opponent named John Garcia. So I think that our principles, properly communicated, are a winning message. And even in the 2020 cycle, I think everybody is aware of what happened nationally and what happened in the United States Senate, but we were able to keep our majority in both our House and our state Senate in Arizona. I think we have a winning message. I think our ideas are not 50 percent plus one ideas. I think they’re 70-30 or 80-20. But we need to focus on principles, we need to focus on policies. We need to have a record of accomplishment and achievement and we need to take that to the people. I do believe that we can get into any room in any state and talk to parents that haven’t been involved politically, but after the last 18 months, they know what the union represents in education, and they’re not on the side of their kids. And never have we had better opportunities around issues like school choice and educational savings accounts. 

Grover Norquist: Governor, there’s been a lot of discussion about the 2020 elections, it’s been litigated in Arizona. What’s happening there, what’s your sense on that issue of reexamining 2020 votes?

Gov. Doug Ducey: So in Arizona, we just had someone conduct an outside audit. This has been the fourth audit. There were three audits before that and what I would say is that the 2020 election is over and we should not spend one more moment focusing on the past. Elections are always about the future. We’ve done a number of things in Arizona to further improve election integrity, to make sure people like Mark Zuckerberg cannot compete at the state level, to make sure that if someone dies or moves out of the state, their name comes off of those lists to protect the custody of those ballots until they’re counted so that no county recorder can change the rules. That has all been put into statute going forward, but I think this idea of focusing on 2022: it should be a very good year. The Republican Governors Association is in the field in 38 states and I will tell you, we have the wind at our backs. We have independents on our side. We have an administration in the White House that is ignoring the southern border, which used ot be a state issue. Today it’s a national issue around national security. It’s also around public safely. The drugs of methamphetamine and fentanyl and opiod overdoses that we hear about in every neighborhood, high school, college, and our cities and towns, is a result of this open-border policy. Last time I was told there’s still a public health emergency and they’re allowing people to stream over the border without a vaccine and without a test. The American public is watching, and they’re going to pay a heavy price for it. 

Grover Norquist: Governor, California just had a recall election. You’re next door to California. What should we learn from California’s failure: the fact that they did recall a Democratic governor, but then the failure to do so. 

Gov. Doug Ducey: You know, I said in my second state of the state that I would be remiss if I didn’t thank my partner in growing Arizona’s economy, and that would be then Republican Governor Jerry Brown. He was incredible for the growth in Arizona. I had no idea that Gavin Newsom would be an even more valuable partner, and I was sharing with my dinner partners tonight that Ronald Reagan actually said that had the pilgrims found the country on the West coast, they would have never bothered discovering the rest of it. No one leaves California because they want to. There is a certain level of pain, of lack of quality of life, of feeling unsafe in your home and neighborhood. So I don’t think that the recall election was orchestrated all that well, and part of that is on the people of California. Even as the leader of the Republican Governors Association, we did want to play in that race. Gavin was vulnerable. He made a number of missteps, from eating dinner at the French Laundry to sending his own children to private schools while the union extended the shutdown on the public schools. But it really was the leaders inside California did not want to be competitive in that race. I think that we’ve Meg Whitman. The candidate matters, the campaign matters, and just like we’ve seen in some places lille 2009 in New Jersey when Chris Christie was able to turn the tide, 2010 in Wisconsin, which was deep blue at the time and Scott Walker was able to turn the tide, and what we’re going to see in Virginia in 2021 with Glenn Youngkin. But it is going to be about the right candidate with the right message. You know, Republican governors can win anywhere in the country. We have a Republican governor in Massachusetts, we have a Republican governor in Maryland, which I imagine many of you are constituents of. We even have a Republican governor in Bernie Sanders’ Vermont. So, hope springs eternal.

Grover Norquist: And in Vermont, they won on a tax issue. Governor, taxes: the biggest divide between Republicans and Democrats today is “will you raise taxes or not?” Republicans have mostly signed the pledge, you signed the pledge never to raise taxes. Democrats will raise any tax if they have the opportunity. You just completed victory lap on your effort to phase down the income tax to a single rate tax close to zero, and perhaps on its way to zero, with a one vote margin, you know, one vote margin in the House and one vote margin in the Senate, so any one jerk on the House or the Senate side, and they have, without naming any names, several in both bodies who qualify, who were willing to dance around on this, how did it happen, what is your sense of where Arizona goes, but the effort to join the eight states now that have no income taxes, Arizona is very close to being one of them.

Gov. Doug Ducey: Well, I ran in 2014, Grover, I came from the private sector: Coldstone Creamery, the ice cream company, was my business, and I ran on a pledge to get the income taxes close to zero as possible. When I was elected, we had a $1 billion deficit, the budget wasn’t balanced, and our education system was in lawsuits, so we made very difficult decisions, tightened our belt in the first year. The economy began to grow, we made modest tax reforms along the way. But we had outside actors that came in-state and they actually deceived the voters through the initiative process and by 1.7 percent had people voting to raise the income tax to 8 percent in our state. Now, there’s only one issue that has continually united the Republican Party during our adult lifetime, and that is lower taxes. So the top of our priority in this legislative session was that we were going to reform the tax code in our legislature. We were able to lower taxes for everybody in the state of Arizona, and this is through recession and pandemic, and to show you how a growing economy can solve so many issues at the state level, just like in a business, growing revenues hides many sins, we were sitting on a $4 billion surplus at the beginning of the year at the beginning of the pandemic. So we took $2 billion, we gave it back to the citizens in the largest tax decrease ever in state history, we have the lowest flat tax in the country at 2.5 percent, and we took the other $2 billion and we paid off debt. So Arizona is very healthy for the future, it’s the fastest growing county in the country four years running and you’re all welcome to visit, relocate, and bring your businesses. We’d love to have you. 

Grover Norquist: Governor, in addition to your successes on tax reduction, Arizona has been the state that has had more good ideas that have been enacted into law and then enacted into law by other states. I was wondering if you could go through some of the list: criminal justice reform, right to try, occupational licensing. There’s been a series. Arizona has come up with more good ideas than other states have bought into than any other state I can think of and I really think it’s a model for success. 

Gov. Doug Ducey: Well, thank you, Grover, that’s very high praise coming in a setting like this. When I did come into office, I started my career at Procter and Gamble and we had something called search and reapply, where you found best practices around the world and you brought them back to the headquarter office. So I really began at the RGA, governors are really collaborative, they’re very collegial, but at the end of the day we’re very competitive. So any time I saw a good idea elsewhere, and there were many at the time. What Mitch Daniels was doing in Indiana, what Rick Perry was doing in Texas, what Jeb Bush had done in Florida, and I brought all those ideas to Arizona and made them part of our policy agenda. But then we began to come up with our own good ideas to see what we could get done. One thing I’m very proud of is the American Civics Acts. It was the first law that I passed. It was the first civics act in the country, and it had anyone inside our K-12 education system could not graduate high school until they could pass the same test that a newly naturalized citizen could pass. I think that we need to get back to that discussion about civics, our founding documents, the Declaration, the Constitution, the Federalist Papers, and have our arguments and debates emanate from that. But we did some other things that Grover mentioned, like universal recognition of occupational licensing. So if you have a license in another state and you’re moving to Arizona, we are going to trust the government in your state that you are in good standing. Because we had more jobs available than we had people to fill them and we didn’t want them to go through this bureaucratic regimen where they would have to go back to square one, go back to school, and pay for tuition, a license, or a fee. We recognized the fee and allowed them to get to work the next day. We’ve had over 3,500 people take advantage of that. We talk a lot about taxes, and I think it’s critical to being an attractive state, but the other thing that we really tackled, which is really challenging, is regulation. It’s hard to get your arms around how many regulations there are in any state. It took us about 18 months in the governor’s office to finally call together 18,000 regulations and then to start to cull them on which were unneeded, unnecessary, or duplicative, and were able, in the next 18 months, to eliminate 2,700 regulations. It’s the equivalent of $150 million tax cut on an annual basis without touching the general fund $1. So these type of fundamental things which are just workmanlike business practices that anybody that’s trying to maximize any enterprise, really makes a difference, in addition to what we’ve been able to do in reductionism and recidivism. You, I can really simplify the Arizona budget, or any state budget, to three things for you: they educate, they medicate, and they incarcerate. That’s 97 percent of the state budget, and we knew when we could take somebody out of a prison, give them an ID, proper benefits, and a skill along with a resume, and give them an opportunity to make a better decision so that they didn’t do what happens around the country, 50 percent of the time they’re bac, in that same space, costing about $50,000 a year, that it would be the right thing to do, it would help our economy, and it would help save our state budget. 

Grover Norquist: Governor Ducey, in 2018, which was not a particularly good year for Republicans running in an off year, you got 44 percent of the Hispanic vote, Mexican American, Latin American vote. How did that happen, what advice do you have for other people, should we be surprised, not surprised?

Gov. Doug Ducey: Well I would say I think that we can go in any room in the country, especially think of from the governor’s race. We don’t talk about what’s happening in Washington, D.C. We may be asked about it, and we have an opinion on it, but everybody in every room that I walk into cares about their station on the economic ladder, and they want to do better. And state policy directly affects that. Americans vote with their feet, and they’re been coming to Arizona in droves, and the other thing is they care about what their kids are learning inside the classroom, and they’re not very happy with what they saw over COVID. And if we would talk about opportunity for all, which was the theme of my campaign in 2014, and then the idea that we have to have some change and choice inside our K-12 education program, I think that’s a winning message regardless of the demographic you’re speaking to. I think as a conservative, we shouldn’t even attempt to play identity politics. We wouldn’t be any good at it. We should go in and talk to people about what they want for themselves and their family and their version of the American Dream, and we’ve got a better answer than the other side every single time. 

Grover Norquist: Governor, we’re about to break for dessert and then some of the awards tonight, what is actually happening on the U.S.-Arizona-Mexican border? We hear about it on TV, but depending on what channel you watch, it’s completely different. 

Gov. Doug Ducey: So, I wanted to end on a high point tonight, and Grover’s put me in a position that it will be impossible: on our border. When I ran for governor in 2014, I went around and visited with a number of sitting governors around the country doing my due diligence, and they would all ask: “What are the top three issues in your state?” And I would say, “Education, the economy, and the border.” And I still remember Chris Christie laughing out loud and saying “The border isn’t much of an issue in New Jersey.” Well, in 2016, the border became a national issue. And this is the third president that I’ve served alongside. This is by far the worst. Even Barack Obama deployed the National Guard to the southern border. Donald Trump of course deployed the National Guard to the southern border, but the issue was so recognized, Jerry Brown of California sent his National Guard down as well. This president is completely averting his gaze as to what’s happening at the southern border. He has never been to the southern border in his career. He has appointed Kamala Harris, the border czar, which is the worst possible pick for that position. It’s someone who has never spoke on this issue their entire time in elective politics and has never taken the issue seriously. She said that she was going to go to the Northern Triangle to try to address the “root cases.” We told her that she didn’t need to leave the White House because the root causes are in the Oval Office. And the other thing is, this is not the illegal immigration that we have seen in the past. Unfortunately, this is a mass migration, which is entirely illegal. Governors like myself and Gregg Abbott in Texas have deployed our National Guard with our state taxpayer dollars, our border strike force, and law enforcement. But what these migrants are doing is simply going to places like New Mexico and California. This is a federal issue that must be addressed, I can tell you from the focused information that we have from the 38 states that we’ll be competing in around the country, is the citizen is aware of this, they see the incompetence of this administration, and the lack of attention to the southern border, and there will be heavy consequences. But in the meantime, I’d just wish they’d pay some attention to their day job. 

Grover Norquist: Governor Ducey, thank you very much. 

Gov. Doug Ducey: Thank you for having me. 

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