Today’s bombshell announcement that popular and principled U.S. Congressman Matt Salmon would not seek re-election is a political earthquake in Arizona Republican circles. Kudos poured in from diverse voices such as Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Kyrsten Sinema. All of the kind words are deserved.
Now attention will turn to Salmon’s possible replacement. Whoever wins the GOP primary in August will be the presumptive congressperson as the district is solidly trunk and tusk.
The silver medalist to Salmon the last time around, Kirk Adams, would be a formidable candidate. A former Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives and current Chief of Staff to popular Governor Doug Ducey, Adams has the brains, resume and money raising ability to go the distance. Senate President Andy Biggs will also be a top contender by virtue of his title and immediate backing by Salmon. He also has his own money by virtue of winning a sweepstakes contest – no joke. How much he is willing to spend remains to be seen. Add Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Chucri and House Appropriations Chairman Justin Olson as impressive potentials too.
But we turn to former Mesa Mayor Scott Smith. He was an extremely popular Mayor in the heart of the district. Although he came up short in his run for Governor, Smith is an unmistakable political talent and could likely raise the resources to be a top contender. It is from this perch, not the head of Valley Metro, that Smith could undergo successful Republican rehabilitation and put himself back in position to do what he really wants: Governor. The path is clear: be a congressman for six years and gain some conservative bona fides to best position for a run for Governor when Ducey is term limited in 2022. He may again face substantial competition in the form of Attorney General Mark Brnovich, Secretary of State Michele Reagan or U.S. Congressman David Schweikert but Smith would likely be better positioned on the ideological spectrum than he was in 2014.
Speaking of future races six years hence, it is going to be quite the political Super Bowl in Arizona as both the Governor’s Office and McCain’s Senate seat (presuming he wouldn’t run yet again) will be open at the same time.