Monica Goddard made a luncheon speech in Payson Tuesday to rouse the troops and trumpet polls showing a tightening in the race for governor, which pits her husband, Attorney General Terry Goddard, against Republican incumbent Jan Brewer.
“The race has tightened a lot,” said Goddard of the recent Rocky Mountain Poll showing Goddard behind by just 3 percent among all voters — but 11 percent among “likely voters.”
That compares to a variety of polls a month ago showing Brewer with a 20-point lead.
Goddard attributed the tighter race to the state’s fiscal woes, concerns about education and the economy and Brewer’s job performance.
“People are starting to pay attention,” she told people gathered at the Northern Gila County Democratic Club luncheon at Tiny’s Restaurant.
“We have to do more for our kids,” said Goddard. “We’re failing them and Jan Brewer is going to balance the budget on the backs of our kids. We can turn this around if we have strong leadership.”
She noted that the Wall Street Journal recently did a survey that ranks Arizona as one of the worst-run states in the nation — 48th out of 50. The state ranked poorly on its bond rating, home value declines, unemployment, health insurance coverage, household income and other scores.
Goddard has said he would make it his top priority to move the state from nearly last among the states in per-student spending to at least the national average, but he has never specified how much that would add to the state budget nor how he would raise the money.
He has also advanced an economic plan that he maintains would project 300,000 new jobs in a state with a shrinking work force and high unemployment. However, that plan featured mostly tax deferral incentives for new businesses, a fund to “close the deal” in recruiting new businesses to the state and a laundry list of policies.
Education has suffered deep cuts in the past two years, since it comprises about 42 percent of the state’s $8.5 billion budget. The cutbacks hit local schools hard. Payson schools lost an estimated $700 per student.
Taxpayers staved off another deep round of cuts by approving a temporary one-cent rise in the state sales tax, which will raise about $1 billion annually.
Even with the sales tax increase in place, projections suggest the Legislature may face another nearly $1 billion deficit in the current fiscal year.
Prior to the cutbacks, the state’s general fund spending had been growing at an annual rate of nearly 9 percent, compared to a population growth rate of about 6 percent.
Brewer had suffered a low approval rating, but after she signed into law SB 1070, her approval rating soared.
Brewer faced Goddard in a single televised debate, required because she accepted public funding for her campaign. Her halting performance and refusal to explain her apparently unfounded insistence that drug cartels have left headless bodies in the Arizona desert didn’t initially dent her standing in the polls.
However, the most recent poll suggests that Goddard’s campaign has gained some traction, with support among all voters rising to 35 percent as Brewer’s fell to 38 percent, with a whopping 21 percent still undecided. Goddard fared much more poorly among voters who said they would definitely vote, a measurement of the so-called “enthusiasm gap” between Democrats and Republicans this year. Among likely voters, Brewer had the support of 46 percent and Goddard had the support of 35 percent.
Goddard’s greatest strength lies among Hispanic and Native American voters, who normally have much lower turnout rates than Brewer’s core group — voters rating themselves as “conservative.”
So on Tuesday, Goddard’s wife exhorted her listeners to show up at the polls.
“This is not about Republicans and Democrats, it’s about an Arizona that cares. We need to bring people to the table and say, ‘OK, let’s find a way to fix this.’ This is a state built on the cooperation between Republicans and Democrats.”