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Ducey dodges questions about his prior commitment to now-censured Sen. Rogers

Gov. Doug Ducey dodged questions Wednesday about his prior commitment on the 2020 campaign trail to the now-censured Sen. Wendy Rogers.

The governor was repeatedly asked to reconcile his comments from a week ago — when he pointedly defended spending $500,000 to help get Rogers elected — with a statement he issued Tuesday after  the northern Arizona Republican was censured by the Senate.

On Feb. 24, when asked if he was still happy with his campaign investment in Rogers,  Ducey explained that his priority as governor was to elect a governing majority. Rogers helps give Republicans a one-vote majority in the state Senate.

“What I've wanted to do is move my agenda forward. I'm proud of what we've been able to accomplish,” Ducey said. “And she's still better than her opponent, (Democrat) Felicia French.”

On Tuesday, Ducey prepared a written statement “in response to the Arizona Senate’s vote” — without mentioning what the vote was for or which lawmaker was being censured — that broadly decried “denigrating and insulting rhetoric.”

“Anti-Semitic and hateful language has no place in Arizona,” Ducey said in the press statement.

So was Ducey contradicting himself when he insisted that Rogers was a better option than her Democratic opponent in 2020? 

The governor repeatedly deflected: “I put out a statement yesterday. That’s the statement I’m standing by.”

When pressed, Ducey accused a reporter of “twisting my words.”

And while rhetoric like Rogers’ has, in Ducey’s words, “no place in Arizona,” the governor rejected calls for Rogers to be expelled from the Senate.

“There are some people in our legislature that want to overturn presidential elections. And there are some people in our legislature that want to overturn legislative elections. Now in this business, you either trust the people, or you don't. I'm on the side of trusting the people,” Ducey said. “And everyone that's running for election will have to stand before the voters on their record for the past two years.”

Ducey was later asked if he would endorse Rogers for re-election later this year, but he would not answer.

“I’m not even considering any of that right now,” he said.

A last-minute change in Arizona’s redistricting process ensured Rogers could run for office in a safe GOP-leaning legislative district.  One Democratic commissioner accused her Republican counterpart of intentionally making the change to benefit Rogers, the incumbent.

Get more Arizona politics news

Ben Giles is a senior editor at KJZZ.