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Former Mesa Mayor Scott Smith (foreground) is one of the many Republican candidates for Arizona's next governor. (File photo)

PHOENIX -- Political website Real Clear Politics says there are many similarities between the races for Arizona's next governor and the nation's next president.

Among them, Arizona boasts a heavy Republican field with eight candidates and, so far, only one Democrat. That mirrors what is expected in 2016 in the presidential race.

Hillary Rodham Clinton is considered the front-runner on the Democratic side -- even though she hasn't announced her candidacy yet -- while several Republicans have hinted that they will run for president.

Valley political expert Stan Barnes of Copper State Consulting Group said he too sees the similarities because Arizona is beginning to look like the rest of the country.

"Arizona is a center-right state that tips to the right, which is the way the rest of the country is," Barnes said.

Barnes also said Arizona's issues reflect those of the country, many of which will take center stage in 2016.

"Immigration, education, gun rights and the economy," he said. "Don't forget the role of President Obama in recent American governance. That will be an issue in Arizona and nationally as well."

Barnes said the Hispanic component of the electorate is the "new dynamic," and that it shouldn't be new, but it is -- and it's starting to influence elections, and Republicans are onto that.

"In Arizona, you'll see particular attention to Hispanic issues. But you probably won't see it until November's general election," Barnes said. "Republicans will probably put that at the end of their list during the primary (election) as they focus on more key Republican baseline issues: The economy, the level of governance. The Republicans can't ignore the demographic changes happening around them. On the national level, they're certainly not, and Arizona will probably be a little bit behind that curve."

Jim Cross, Reporter

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