PHOENIX -- Democrat Fred DuVal faced his first attack ad Wednesday as the general election contest in the Arizona governor's race kicked off in earnest.
Republican nominee Doug Ducey and DuVal were preparing to launch tours around the state the day after Ducey scored a resounding victory in a six-way GOP primary and DuVal moved on to the general uncontested.
The hit against DuVal, launched by the Republican Governor's Association, shows that the race is sure to be gritty and possibly ugly.
The RGA ad blamed DuVal for a big rise in tuition at the state's three four-year universities during his tenure as a member of the Board of Regents.
"Under DuVal, tuition and fees rose 99 percent, doubling the price of college," the ad's narrator said.
DuVal said the ad ignores the reasons for the boosts and blamed the tuition increases on cuts made by lawmakers and Republican Gov. Jan Brewer.
"The Legislature and the governor subtracted over $400 million from the universities, and we cut the universities aggressively, but the one thing we weren't going to do is close campuses," DuVal said. "Coming out of the tuition increases, I led a significant redesign initiative that has led to lower costs for more students."
That included higher financial aid, coordinating classes with community colleges to cut overall cost for a degree and produced the only year of no tuition increases when he was chairman in 2011-2012.
DuVal has made education the centerpiece of his campaign, saying cuts to primary and secondary schools made during the recession need to be restored.
Ducey, meanwhile, put together a broad coalition of backers from the middle and the far right, gaining support from the business community and Tea Party supporters in his bid to win the Republican primary for Arizona governor.
He said in an interview Wednesday that he hopes to increase that coalition and work toward a November victory.
"I intend to make the broad coalition even broader," Ducey said. "We're going to continue to bring people on, education champions, people that want to see a growing economy and people that want to see good common-sense ideas applied to state government. We intend to hold on to the coalition that's we've built and make it even larger."
Ducey rode to an easy 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.
But he also campaigned with a message to the far right of the party, slamming President Barack Obama on border security. He promised to use satellites and the National Guard to secure the border and touted support from hard-line conservatives such as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
"I'm going positive with (former Republican Attorney General) Grant Woods and many other Republicans that are saying this guy is a bi-partisan, collaborative centrist," DuVal said. "And Doug is campaigning next week with Sarah Palin. That's the difference."
Ducey said he too is running a positive campaign.
"I think our positive optimistic message of an Arizona that is reforming, job creating and welcoming is one that worked very well in the primary," he said. "And I just think that we need to amplify that message and talk about kick-starting our economy, improving our education system and being a state that reflects opportunity for all."
Bruce Merrill, a longtime pollster and political scientist at Arizona State University, said Ducey should be the clear front-runner going into November, although DuVal has a chance.
"If Ducey runs the kind of campaign that he ran in the primary he should win," Merrill said. "There's more Republicans, they vote in a higher percentage than do Democrats. The Independents have not been a factor."
Ducey's victory was the biggest highlight on a night that saw the state's attorney general and chief education official lose their re-election fights.
Republican Attorney General Tom Horne was defeated after three years of allegations of campaign finance violations, an FBI investigation and a hit-and-run where he pleaded no contest. He has denied wrongdoing in all of the allegations he faces.
After holding out on election night, he finally conceded to political newcomer Mark Brnovich on Wednesday. Brnovich now takes on Democrat Felecia Rotellini in a race Democrats believe they can win, red state or not.
Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal also lost his GOP primary, derailed by his support for new Common Core education standards and revelations of anonymous racist and anti-poor blog postings that he tearfully apologized for making. Voters instead elected Diane Douglas, who campaigned to end Common Core and said she will continue that push.
She'll face an Arizona State University professor, David Garcia, who defeated high school English teacher Sharon Thomas in the Democratic primary.