In only televised debate, Republican candidates for Arizona governor mostly take aim at one another

By Stacey Barchenger |Arizona Republic

Arizona’s four Republican candidates for governor met onstage Wednesday in the only televised debate of the primary election, what amounted to an hourlong throw down between the contenders.

The back-and-forth, near-constant interruptions and din of candidates speaking over one another prompted one — Kari Lake — to quip at one point: “I feel like I’m on an ‘SNL’ skit here.”

Candidates Karrin Taylor Robson, Scott Neely, Paola Tulliani Zen and Lake gathered to make their pitch to voters, who in the Aug. 2 primary will choose their nominee to replace Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, who is term-limited and cannot run again.

Ted Simons, debate moderator and host of “Arizona Horizon” on Arizona PBS, briefly mentioned a last-minute change that left him as the only moderator before diving into the hourlong question-and-answer session that covered the border, water, education and abortion issues.

And while the candidates did address some of voters’ top concerns, they seemed to take it more as a rare opportunity to attack one another in front of a television audience.

Where do they stand? These candidates for governor could decide the future of Arizona abortion law

The tone of the debate was made clear in the first minutes, when Taylor Robson, the final candidate to deliver an opening statement, attacked Lake, who anchored the nightly news on Fox 10 for two decades.

“We need a conservative fighter,” said Taylor Robson, a former developer and former member of the Arizona Board of Regents. “We need a leader with a record of accomplishment, not a career talker with a teleprompter. … I supported pro-life causes. I fought cancel culture. And I will defend the Second Amendment. These are serious times, we need a serious candidate with a record of accomplishment.”

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