Arizona Sen. Steve Smith of the town of Maricopa announced today that he would seek a seat in the Arizona House of Representatives rather than take on Arizona Sen. Al Melvin of SaddleBrooke in the new Legislative District 11.
Smith sent out a press release blaming the whole situation on the Independent Redistricting Commission, which was evidently supposed to deliver safe Republican districts for all sitting senators.
But Smith may not avoid a primary fight. At least two Southern Arizona Republicans—Adam Kwasman and Bob Westerman—are looking at running for the two House seats in LD11.
Smith's decision comes days after Westerman indicated he might be interested in the race, as The Range reported on Friday.
Smith's press release after the jump:
After careful consideration, conservative Republican State Senator Steve Smith announced today that he will be running as a candidate for the State House of Representatives for the newly formed LD 11 in 2012, seemingly thwarting an attempt by the Arizona Redistricting Commission to force him into a primary with fellow conservative State Senator Al Melvin.
In a statement, Smith said:
“This was one of the most difficult decisions I have had to make in my political career thus far, but after much prayer and discussion with my family as well as with GOP leaders, I decided that my running for the House was in the best interest of my constituents, the Republican Party, and the state of Arizona . The reason for this decision is that we are in a time now more than ever where the Legislature is in need of as many conservatives as possible, so losing either Senator Melvin or myself in a Primary conceived by the liberal IRC was not an option.
In light of the fact that Al Melvin is now the senior Senator in our new district, I feel that it is my responsibility to do whatever it takes to try and keep both of our conservative voices at the Capitol and to defer and run for the House, where if elected, I pledge to help lead the conservative charge there as I did in the Senate. While I fully intend to run for the Senate once again in the future, I am looking forward to the possibility of serving as a Representative from LD 11 and will do my very best for the people of my district”.
In 2010, Smith shocked the Arizona political landscape when he defeated long-time Democrat incumbent Rebecca Rios, whose family had held the Senate seat for nearly 30 years.
In just his first session last year, Smith quickly was regarded as one of the strongest conservatives in the Senate, was awarded as one of the '2011 Conservative Heroes' by the Arizona Liberty Project, and was ranked the #1 Reagan-Republican conservative by The Pachyderm Coalition (a ranking that is extraordinarily difficult to be attained by a freshman legislator). Smith also was nationally recognized after he authored and introduced the ‘Build the Border Fence’ legislation, a nationwide effort to raise funds to build Arizona’s border fence.
State Republican Chairman Tom Morrissey, former Senate President and now 1st Vice Chairman of the Republican Party Russell Pearce, and Senator Al Melvin all commented on Smith’s decision:
“I want to publicly thank Senator Smith in putting the Republican Party first in his decision to spare the state a primary and to run for the House of Representatives. He exemplified great leadership in his decision and I believe is one of the Party’s rising stars”. Tom Morrissey
“Wow, in what had to be a tough decision, my very good friend Steve Smith decided in favor of ‘Party above Politics’ and I thank him for what he has done thus far and what he will continue to do for the state of Arizona. Steve is a true patriot who always puts God, family, and country first; this is just another example of his dedication to doing what is right, no matter how tough. Please support him as I strongly will in his run for the House and for the Senate when he decides to return, we desperately need more Steve Smith's in this Republic, he is my Patrick Henry!!” Russell Pearce
“Steve is a strong friend and ally in the Senate and I thank him and am grateful for his selfless decision. I look forward to continue to work with him now and in the future”. Al Melvin