PHOENIX — Republican Gov. Doug Ducey and his party have far outpaced Democratic challenger David Garcia in fundraising and spending leading up to the Nov. 6 election for Arizona governor.
Millions of dollars in ads by the Republican Governors Association have aimed to demonstrate that Garcia is weak on border security, asserting that he wants to "abolish ICE," the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, a claim the Democrat vigorously denied.
And that money doesn't count the other $5.6 million the candidate has raised so far for his Ducey for Governor Fund, or the $8.2 million he has collected in his Ducey Victory Fund Committee, spending about $10 million from those two pots, according to Arizona Secretary of State records.
Garcia , a fourth-generation Arizona resident who hopes to become the state's second Latino governor, has refused to accept lobbyist or corporate contributions. By mid-October, he had raised less than $2 million for his campaign, mostly in small individual contributions.
"Doug Ducey and his corporate funders are focused on themselves and those at the top," Garcia said in a recent statement.
Ducey is leading Garcia in all recent polls.
The governor was to appear Friday with President Donald Trump, who scheduled an appearance in the Phoenix suburb of Mesa to lend support to Republican candidate Martha McSally, who is running neck-and-neck with Democrat Kyrsten Sinema for the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Jeff Flake.
Ducey, who was born and raised in Toledo, Ohio, moved to Arizona to attend college and stayed. He was a businessman who oversaw the Cold Stone Creamery ice cream parlor chain before serving a term as state treasurer. He was elected governor in 2014.
He boasts that as governor he was able to take a $1 billion deficit and balance the budget without raising taxes, and simplified the state tax code, cutting regulations to stimulate jobs. He also has stressed an emphasis on security along Arizona's southern border.
The border and illegal immigration are major issues in Arizona, which is home to a large Latino population and has some of the toughest laws in the nation targeting migrants in the U.S. without permission.
Garcia came out against Trump's plans for a border wall and called for more humane treatment of immigrants, especially children. The Democrat said he would like to see Immigration and Customs Enforcement transformed into a new agency that protects borders while respecting human rights.
He said the ads took his words out of context, leading to "fear mongering intended to divide communities."
Ducey told Garcia during the first of two debates: "I think that the ads that have been out on you are public service announcements."
The other main issue during the campaign was education, coming in the wake of an unprecedented statewide teacher that strike shut down public schools for nearly a week earlier this year as instructors demanded increased funding.
The teachers returned to class after Ducey signed a plan for a 20 percent pay raise. It was less than what was demanded by the teachers, who had wanted more money for schools and other staff members.
Garcia, an education professor at Arizona State University, has focused much of message on the importance of funding for public schools.
18-year-old Estevan Corral, who is registered to vote for the first time in November, said he met Garcia and became interested in politics during the teacher walkout earlier this year while he was still a student at Phoenix's North High School. He has since graduated and hopes to become a teacher himself.
Latinos make up more than 30 percent of the population in Arizona and more than 40 percent in Phoenix.
"We're closer to a majority than a minority now," said Corral. "It's about time that we had a governor who looked like us."