Arizona Gov. Ducey announces he won’t run for Senate, in blow to GOP recruitment effort

In a letter to donors Thursday obtained by The Washington Post, Ducey explained that “by nature and by training I’m an executive” rather than a legislator.

“These days, if you’re going to run for public office, you have to really want the job,” Ducey said in the letter. “Right now I have the job I want, and my intention is to close my years of service to Arizona with a very productive final session AND to help elect Republican governors across the country in my role as chairman of the Republican Governors Association.”

For months, Donald Trump has publicly criticized Ducey, who recognized Joe Biden’s win in Arizona in 2020 and has rejected the former president’s baseless claims of election fraud.

“MAGA will never accept RINO Governor Doug Ducey of Arizona running for the US Senate — So save your time, money, and energy, Mitch!” Trump said in a statement last month, using an acronym for “Republican in Name Only.” Trump appeared to be responding to a New York Times report detailing efforts by McConnell, former president George W. Bush and others to encourage Ducey to run against Kelly.

In his letter to donors Thursday, Ducey made no mention of Trump — but did heap praise on McConnell.

“The only downside about any of this is that it would be an honor to serve with Sen. Mitch McConnell. I consider him an historic figure and one of the Titans of the Senate, and I am supportive of everything he’s doing to elect Republican senators and wrest back control from Chuck Schumer,” Ducey said.

Ducey also said the Republican Party has “a strong field of candidates” in Arizona and suggested that he may at one point “perhaps [be] weighing in before the primary.”

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee pointed to Ducey’s decision as a sign that “potential Republican candidates know they cannot defend their party’s disastrous agenda.”

“Once again, Senate Republicans’ recruitment efforts have failed, and their top potential candidates are refusing to run against strong Senators like Mark Kelly,” DSCC spokesman Patrick Burgwinkle said in a statement.

Kelly won election to the Senate in a 2020 special election and is among the most prolific fundraisers in the country; his campaign raised $8.9 million in the fourth quarter, second only to Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D-Ga.), who raised $9.8 million in the same period.

The Arizona Senate race is one of the most closely watched in the country. Democrats control the 50-50 Senate by the thinnest of margins, with Vice President Harris serving as the tiebreaker.

Among the Republican candidates in the race are finance executive Blake Masters, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich and energy executive Jim Lamon, whose campaign recently launched an ad in which the candidate, dressed as a sheriff, fires a gun at actors portraying Kelly, Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Kelly is the husband of former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who was shot in the head while greeting constituents outside a Tucson supermarket in 2011. Six people were killed in the shooting rampage, and many others were injured.

Two other Republican governors have rebuffed efforts by McConnell and the GOP to recruit them for Senate races. Gov. Chris Sununu of New Hampshire said he would seek reelection rather than pursue a challenge to Sen. Maggie Hassan (D). Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland said he had no interest in running for the Senate against Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D).

Sununu, in turning down McConnell’s entreaties, said he had no interest in spending all his time being a “roadblock” to Biden’s agenda and doing little in the Senate.

After conversations with Republican senators, Sununu told the Washington Examiner in January: “They were all, for the most part, content with the speed at which they weren’t doing anything. It was very clear that we just have to hold the line for two years. OK, so I’m just going to be a roadblock for two years. That’s not what I do.”

Donna Cassata, Amy B Wang and David Weigel contributed to this report.

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Andrew Naughtie

News reporter and author at @websalespromo