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Tuesday, May 21, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Arizona Democrat Won’t Seek Reelection to Flip-Flopping House Seat

Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick’s border district has flipped back and forth from Republican to Democratic control several times since former Representative Jim Kolbe retired in 2006.

TUCSON, Ariz. (CN) --- U.S. Representative Ann Kirkpatrick will not seek reelection in 2022, the veteran Arizona Democrat said Friday.

“Every two years for the past 18 years, there has been an election in Arizona with my name on the ballot,” Kirkpatrick said in a statement. “Serving Arizonans has been my absolute honor and joy, but after much consideration, I have decided not to seek reelection in 2022. I will continue the good fight through this Congress, and when the term is up, I will hand over the baton.”

Kirkpatrick, 70, has represented Arizonans in Congress off and on since 2009, first in northern Arizona’s 1st District and for the past two years in the 2nd District, which stretches from Tucson southeast to New Mexico and the Mexican border.

The opening will likely set off a flurry of candidacies in a part of Arizona that has been represented by the first openly gay Republican in Congress, Jim Kolbe; Democrat Gabby Giffords, who was shot in the head in an assassination attempt and forced to retire; and Republican Martha McSally, the nation’s first woman combat pilot and an ardent supporter of President Donald Trump.

In November, Kirkpatrick won 55% of the vote in a district with a slight Democratic registration edge --- 172,000 Democrats to 154,000 Republicans. Almost a third (140,000) of the district’s voters are registered independents, according to the Arizona Secretary of State's website.

Regardless of where she served, Kirkpatrick’s goals stayed the same, she said.

“The local issues in Douglas are certainly different than in Flagstaff, but the requests from communities are similar: ‘Remember us when you’re in Washington,’” she said in her announcement. “How could I forget? Arizona is home. And representing my home state has been the highest honor.”

The sprawling, mostly rural district wraps around the eastern edge of Arizona’s blue island, Tucson. The west half of Tucson is held by Representative Raul Grijalva, widely recognized as among the most liberal members of Congress whose 3rd District covers the rest of Arizona’s border west to California.

The region Kirkpatrick represents was the 8th District until 2012, when the state’s nonpartisan Independent Redistricting Commission redrew congressional boundaries.

From the mid-1980s until 2006, the area was represented by Kolbe. Since retiring, Kolbe has left the Republican Party and he endorsed President Joe Biden in 2020.

After Kolbe retired, voters sent Giffords to Congress. Giffords, a former state legislator now married to Arizona’s newest senator, retired astronaut Mark Kelly, was shot in the head in 2011 and retired the following year on the cusp of redistricting.

Ron Barber, Giffords’ former district office director, then won the seat --- twice --- in 2012. Barber first won a race to serve out Giffords' remaining term, which ended after the November 2012 election. He then won the election to succeed Giffords held immediately afterward.

In 2014, McSally beat Barber by fewer than 200 votes to put the region --- now called District 2 --- again under the GOP banner. McSally, a retired Air Force colonel and ardent Trumpster, represented the district until she stepped down in 2018 to run for Senate, a race she lost to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema.

Kirkpatrick moved to southern Arizona and won election to McSally's former seat in 2018. The native of the For Apache Indian Reservation is a member of the House Appropriations Committee.

In her announcement Friday, she credited her rural upbringing on the reservation, where her mother was a teacher and her father ran a grocery store, as foundational to her life of political service.

Categories / Government, Politics

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