PHOENIX - State treasurer and former CEO Doug Ducey won the Republican primary for Arizona governor Tuesday, easily riding to victory with a campaign that focused on his blend of government and business experience in serving as a state official and building an ice cream company into a national brand.
Ducey started Cold Stone Creamery in Arizona and built it into a well-known chain before selling the company in 2007 and getting into politics.
He has been state treasurer for the last four years, serving as the chief steward of Arizona's finances during a period that included the collapse of the housing market in the state.
Ducey, 50, led the nearest competitor in the six-candidate primary field by 15 percentage points, and quickly moved on to the general election, saying he was going to unite not only the party but all Arizonans.
"I want to be the governor for all the people, and in this campaign I will reach out to all the people," he said at a Republican Party rally in Phoenix. "You have my word that as the Republican nominee, I will keep giving this race the best that is in me, and I will earn the vote by showing the best that is in Arizona."
Ducey faces Democrat Fred DuVal, who was unopposed in the primary.
DuVal told a crowd at his party's primary night event that he would be honest and transparent as governor. "Whether you are a Republican or an independent or Democrat, as long as you are committed to education, job creation, and you're committed to cleaning up our government, you are welcome in this campaign," he said.
The race to replace Republican Gov. Jan Brewer began as a fairly quiet contest focused on health care and jobs before shifting abruptly when thousands of immigrant children began pouring into the country and some settled in Arizona.
In the quest for right-leaning Republican primary voters, the six candidates quickly staked out hard-line positions on immigration and repeatedly attacked the Obama administration for failing to secure the border.
The contest turned into a slugfest between Ducey, former GoDaddy executive Christine Jones and former Mesa Mayor Scott Smith.
"We wanted to have a message that was positive, a message about Arizona's future," Smith told supporters in a concession speech. "We fell a little short tonight ... Maybe it wasn't red meat, maybe it didn't fit the primary mold."
In an interview, Smith said he was proud to have done as well as he did, considering he was hit with negative advertising and vastly outspent by candidates with large personal fortunes.
"I'm not really into moral victories, but on this one I'm proud we ran a campaign that resonated with so many Arizonans even though we were at a severe disadvantage. It means our message had meaning," he said.
Ducey and Jones poured millions of their own cash into the race. Smith lagged in fundraising but had the endorsement of Brewer.
Brewer, who will leave office in January, embraced Ducey although she had campaigned vigorously for Smith.
"There is only one candidate who will fight federal overreach and Barack Obama's failed policies," Brewer said. "Let me be perfectly clear: I am a friend of Doug Ducey, and I wholeheartedly endorse him as Arizona's next governor."
Well behind Tuesday night were Secretary of State Ken Bennett, former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas and former California congressman Frank Riggs.
Ducey painted himself as the front-runner late in the race and cited a broad coalition of business and political leaders as supporters.
He now will need to act quickly to heal a party that was divided by the primary fight. Ducey, Jones and Smith have each been hit with attack ads, which can turn off voters.