By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services
PHOENIX -- Arizona Republicans are going to have to look for someone new -- and with name ID or access to cash -- to run against Mark Kelly for U.S. Senate in 2022.
"The governor has said specifically he is not running for the United States Senate,'' said C.J. Karamargin Sunday for Gov. Doug Ducey.
Ducey did meet this past week with Mitch McConnell, who was the Senate majority leader, when he was in Washington last week for the inauguration of President Biden. McConnell was involved in raising money for the bid by Martha McSally to hang on to the U.S. Senate seat she was given in 2018 by Ducey.
And Ducey, who will be only 58 when he leaves office, cannot legally seek a third term as governor.
But Karamargin said the governor was chatting with McConnell about federal issues, including COVID-19.
Pollster Mike Noble of OH Predictive Insights said the governor's decision creates a problem for Republicans in finding someone to run against Kelly.
The former astronaut performed quite well in November, actually gathering more votes than Joe Biden in nominally Republican Arizona.
And then there's the money.
Kelly managed to raise nearly $100 million in his bid to finish the last two years of the term that originally belonged to John McCain, besting the $71 million that McSally put together even with McConnell's help. And as an incumbent he may have even more advantage.
"I don't know, outside of Ducey, who in the state that kind of is positioned with the ability to raise the type of funds needed for the U.S. Senate seat here,'' Noble said.
And if not Ducey?
"It's kind of a thin bench for the GOP,'' Noble told Capitol Media Services.
There are elected Republicans with a high enough profile who might see the race as an opportunity.
One is Attorney General Mark Brnovich.
Like Ducey, he cannot run for a third term in 2022. That makes him apotential choice not only for the Senate seat but the open gubernatorial post.
Brnovich on Sunday brushed aside questions of his political future.
"I'm too busy watching the Packers game, enjoying a beer and a brat with my wife's family, to think about the Senate or anything else political,'' he said.
Treasurer Kimberly Yee, the other statewide elected Republican, also would have to be considered. In fact, she got more votes in 2018 than Brnovich.
Noble said that Kelli Ward, fresh off a narrow victory to retain her slot as chair of the Arizona Republican Party, also might see an opportunity despite the fact that she has waged two prior unsuccessful bids for the U.S. Senate.
Ward did not return calls seeking comment.
Then there's the state's congressional delegation.
Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar both have cruised to easy victories in their GOP-dominated congressional districts. But both, like Ward, are firmly in the Trump wing of the party which may not make them acceptable in a statewide race where they would need broad support.
More moderate is David Schweikert whose background includes both time in the Arizona Legislature as well as Maricopa County Treasurer. But Schweikert said he sees no reason to give up what may be a safe seat in the U.S. House.
"I'm probably an election cycle away from getting at least a subcommittee in Ways and Means,'' he told Capitol Media Services.
That powerful committee is in charge of crafting tax legislation. And much of the detail is worked out at the subcommittee level.
"In the old days, people use to wait 25 years just to get one of those,'' Schweikert said. "And it's what I like doing.''
And there's something else.
"My vanity is not out of control right now,'' he quipped.
With money likely to be an issue in the 2022 race, Noble said the party might do well to look for someone with deep pockets or access to money through the business community.
One option, he said, is Karin Taylor Robson, appointed by Ducey to the Arizona Board of Regents in 2017, who Noble said has been "kind of positioning for some time now.''
An attorney experienced in issues of land use, development and zoning, she is the founder and president of Arizona Strategies which she described as " a premier land-use strategy firm'' based in Phoenix. Robson is also the chair of the Joe Foss Institute, a Scottsdale nonprofit that lists its values as promoting among students the values of freedom, patriotism, integrity, service and character.
But Glenn Hamer, president of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said he's not as convinced as Noble that fundraising will be such a big deal. He said that in the 2020 race, the vast majority of donations to both Kelly and McSally came from small donors from all over the county.
"So once there's a nominee, the dollars are very likely to flow in, no matter who the candidate is,'' Hamer said.
State Senate President Karen Fann, a Prescott Republican, said one of the problems with handicapping the race for U.S. Senate is that there are going to be lots of posts open for statewide office.
"So this is truly going to be one of those musical chairs elections,'' she said. And then there's the fact that new district lines will be drawn before the 2022 race.
"That's going to put some of our legislators in positions of deciding whether they're gong to run for their new, redrawn district or do they have aspirations to do something else, move on to Congress or Senate or a statewide office,'' Fann said.
One other potential option, said Noble, is former Congressman Matt Salmon. He made one other statewide bid in the past when he narrowly lost to Janet Napolitano in 2002.
And Debbie Lesko, the other Republican member of the congressional delegation, has strong support among business interests.