PHOENIX (AP) — Former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods said Friday he won’t run against Republican U.S. Sen. Martha McSally in what’s likely to be one of the most hotly contested Senate races of the 2020 election.
Woods was a Republican who worked for John McCain before being elected Arizona’s top law enforcement official in the 1990s. He has become a fierce critic of President Donald Trump and switched his registration to the Democratic Party.
Woods was viewed as a leading contender for the seat held by McCain. He said he doesn’t want to fight in a contested Democratic primary to prove he’s liberal enough for the party’s base, saying “that’s not my fight.” He said he’d hoped he could lock up deep-pocketed Democratic donors so he wouldn’t have to face a well-funded opponent in the primary, but he wasn’t able.
“Right now the problem is Trump and McSally,” Woods said on Phoenix radio station KTAR. “And I don’t want to spend 18 months trying to prove something that’s not true, and that is that I’m liberal enough for the far left wing of the Democratic Party. Because I’m not. I don’t support them.”
As a lifelong Republican, Woods pitched himself as a centrist who could appeal to people in both parties fed up with Trump in a state that historically has been dominated by Republicans but where Democrats made big inroads in last year’s election. But in a crowded Democratic primary, his GOP roots likely would be viewed with skepticism.
The strategy worked for Democratic U.S. Sen Kyrsten Sinema, who sometimes irritated her party’s liberal wing with centrist positions and rhetoric but did not have to face a well-known or well-funded opponent running to her left in the primary. Sinema narrowly defeated McSally in the November election, becoming Arizona’s first Democratic senator since the early 1990s as she replaced Republican Jeff Flake, who did not seek re-election.
Gov. Doug Ducey appointed McSally to the vacant Senate seat after his first appointee, former Sen. Jon Kyl resigned after only a few months in office. The seat is a top target for Democrats because McSally just lost a Senate race in November and Democrats posted a strong showing in the November election, winning three statewide contests and picking up legislative and congressional seats.
The 2020 election will decide who finishes the last two years of McCain’s term. The winner would have to run again for a full six-year term in 2022.
Other Democrats considering the race include U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego of Phoenix and former astronaut Mark Kelly, who is married to former Tucson Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and is now a gun-control advocate following the assassination attempt against her.