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Gov. Ducey launches re-election bid

In this file photo Republican Gov. Doug Ducey speaks about a variety of issues during an interview in his office at the Arizona Capitol Tuesday, May 8, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

In this file photo Republican Gov. Doug Ducey speaks about a variety of issues during an interview in his office at the Arizona Capitol Tuesday, May 8, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

PHOENIX -- Gov. Doug Ducey promised Monday to make another attempt to let police and courts take guns away from potentially dangerous people if voters return him to office in November.

In formally launching his re-election bid, the governor touted what he said is the turnaround of the state's financial fortune, including a balanced budget, new jobs in the private sector and more money for education.

Ducey said he also recognizes more needs to be done, particularly in that last category.

"So this campaign is going to be about what's next,'' he said.

Ducey did acknowledge that his 2014 campaign promise to push state income taxes to "as close to zero as possible'' has not been accomplished.

Tax rates remain the same. Instead, there have been a series of very discrete changes in tax law, such as indexing tax brackets for inflation.

The governor said, though, voters need patience.

"To lower our income tax and for major tax reform, we're going to need a term or two,'' Ducey said.

"We're going to need a growing economy,'' he continued. "And we have a plan.''

But it is the issue of school safety, and particularly the question of letting judges take away weapons, which could end up being the key dividing issue in the Republican primary between Ducey and former Secretary of State Ken Bennett.

Bennett has staked out the position that it is possible to deal with school violence without the Severe Threat Orders of Protection (STOP) that Ducey wants, but was unable to get lawmakers to approve earlier this year.

These would allow both police and individuals like family members, roommates and school officials to seek a court order to have someone's weapons seized, at least temporarily, if a judge determined someone is a potential threat to self or others.

Lawmakers did approve some proposals aimed at school safety, like more money for mental health counselors. But Ducey said he remains convinced that STOP orders are necessary.

"When I look what happened in Florida, Kentucky, Texas and other instances, I want our law enforcement leaders and our mental health professionals to have a tool where they can be proactive in a dangerous situation,'' he said.

And that, he said, means some version of a STOP order.

"You don't sit on the sidelines and say, 'There's nothing we can do,''' Ducey said.

The governor said what happened at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, proves his point.

"Nikolas Cruz gave every indication, with 39 visits from law enforcement and social services, being identified by name to the FBI, and posting on YouTube that he wanted to be known as a school shooter, I think good policy is that you can stop someone like that,'' the governor said.

That, however, is not a path Bennett wants to travel.

"I want school safety and education,'' he said in a Twitter post a week ago.

"But 'seize' or 'remove' guns NOT allowed on 9th floor (the governor's office) when Bennett is gov.''

And in a separate Facebook posting, Bennett said, "Infringing on Second Amendment is not the answer.''

Ducey's announcement that he wants another term is hardly a surprise.

His campaign committee actually has been in operation, and gathering donations, since September 2016. In fact, he already has collected more than $3 million.

Bennett, however, is choosing to run with public dollars. If he gets the required 4,000 $5 donations he will get $839,704 for the GOP primary.

All that presumes, however, he gets on the ballot. Ducey supporters have filed a lawsuit challenging many of the signatures he submitted on nominating petitions.

A court hearing on that challenge is set for Thursday.