Democratic Arizona Rep. Kirkpatrick won't seek reelection

FILE - IN this Nov. 8, 2016 file photo, Democratic senatorial candidate U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz., speaks to supporters during an election night party in Phoenix. Kirkpatrick, a five-term Arizona Democrat, announced Friday, March 12, 2021, she won't run for reelection in 2022. (AP Photo/Matt York, File) (Matt York, Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

TUCSON, Ariz. – U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, a five-term Arizona Democrat, announced Friday she won't run for reelection in 2022.

Her decision means her district is sure to draw heavy national attention in the election, with an open seat and potential control of the U.S. House of Representatives on the line.

Democrats now hold a narrow House majority and Republicans have promised to target her 2nd District as a possible flip opportunity, while Democrats will fight to hold it.

The wild card will be redistricting, with the state expected to be assigned a 10th congressional district. How that district is fit into the state map by the independent state commission charged with redrawing lines will help determine if Kirkpatrick’s district is competitive.

Kirkpatrick, 70, has represented two different districts during her congressional career — first a district in mostly rural northern and eastern Arizona and more recently the 2nd District that includes much of the Tucson area in southeastern Arizona.

“Serving Arizonans has been my absolute honor and joy, but after much consideration, I have decided not to seek re-election in 2022,” she said in a statement. “I will continue the good fight through this Congress, and when the term is up, I will hand over the baton.”

In between her House stints, she ran unsuccessfully in 2016 for U.S. Senate, losing to incumbent Republican John McCain, who died in 2018. In early 2020, Kirkpatrick was absent from Congress for six weeks for treatment of alcoholism, a move she said was prompted by a fall that she saw as “a little bit of a wake-up call.”

Kirkpatrick, who won reelection in November to her second term from her current district, told Arizona media outlets that her health and recovery weren't factors in her decision to leave Congress and that she wanted to spend more time with family, including three grandsons.

The district has been competitive in recent elections but Kirkpatrick defeated Republican challenger Brandon Marlin by a nearly 40,000-vote margin in November.

An attorney, Kirkpatrick was born and raised in eastern Arizona, where her mother was a teacher on the White Mountain Apache Reservation and her father ran a small general store. She earned bachelor’s and law degrees at the University of Arizona in Tucson, was a prosecutor and in private practice, and served two terms in the state Legislature before first running for Congress in 2008.

She initially represented the sprawling 1st District, which covers northern and eastern Arizona and includes the Navajo Nation and other tribal reservations. She cited her 2010 vote for the Affordable Care Act as one of her key accomplishments.

But that vote also contributed to her loss in 2010 to Republican Paul Gosar, a year when the GOP had key wins and “tea party” activists targeted her support of former Pesident Barack Obama's signature achievement.

After redistricting made that district more Democratic, Gosar switched districts and Kirkpatrick won the 1st District seat again in 2012 and was reelected in 2014.

The Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission has just started meeting about the next round of changes, but the U.S. Census Bureau announced last month that it would not deliver key data to states until late September rather than this month.

That will compress the schedule for the commission to draw Arizona’s new congressional and legislative district maps and likely limit campaigns as candidates wait to see which district they will run in.