Primaries in Arizona, Vermont, Oklahoma set stage for general election

State treasurer and former CEO Doug Ducey, right, smiles as Gov. Jan Brewer shakes her finger at him playfully as he arrives to claim victory on winning the Republican primary for Arizona governor Tuesday, Aug. 26, 2014, in Phoenix.


The big headline to emerge from Tuesday's primary elections was the return of former Republican Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who seized the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in that state by a convincing margin, completing a political transformation that began four years ago.

But Crist wasn't the only winner on Tuesday: voters in Arizona, Vermont, and Oklahoma selected their nominees for several Senate and gubernatorial races, as well.

In Arizona, State Treasurer and former CEO Doug Ducey won the Republican gubernatorial primary, 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.

The race to replace Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, 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 the state.

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 crowded primary was a test of Brewer's strength. She endorsed former Mesa Mayor Scott Smith. Democrat Fred DuVal was unopposed in his primary and will face Ducey in November.

Vermont Republicans nominated businessman Scott Milne over three other candidates to face Democratic incumbent Peter Shumlin, who also leads the Democratic Governors Association. Milne, the head of a travel company, faces an uphill climb to oust Shumlin in deep-blue Vermont.

Other statewide offices in Vermont, including an at-large House seat, also are on the ballot. That seat is currently held by Democratic Rep. Peter Welch, who's unlikely to face a serious challenge in November.

Oklahoma Democrats chose state Sen. Connie Johnson as their Senate nominee over perennial candidate Jim Rogers. Johnson will be a general election underdog against Rep. James Lankford for the seat being vacated by retiring Republican Sen. Tom Coburn.

Some Oklahoma Democrats said their Senate runoff was likely a futile exercise.

Phil Defree, 64, a retired civil servant in central Oklahoma, voted for Johnson but said he had no expectations that Democrats can defeat Lankford in a state where Obama failed to win a single county in either of his national victories.

"Oh, no! Not in Oklahoma. I'm a realist," Defree said.