Senator Kyl Announcement

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Political Analyst Chris Herstam talks about Senator Jon Kyl’s decision not to seek reelection and the politicians who may try to run for his U.S. Senate seat in 2012.

Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Senator Jon Kyl will not be running for reelection next year. Kyl announced his decision today, a decision that throws the 2012 race for the senate seat, his senate seat, wide open. We'll hear from a political analyst, but first, here is what some of what senator Kyl had to say about his decision at a news conference this morning.

Senator Jon Kyl: I will not seek reelection to the United States senate, but will retire from public service in January of 2013. Let me say that there is nothing negative about the decision I'm making. My health is good, I think -- I'm fairly confident that if I ran for reelection again that I could be reelected. I do not subscribe to this notion that politics has gotten so coarse these days that civil people can't engage in it. I learned long ago there will be people who don't engage in civil discourse, but if you stop that from serving, you really ought to get into another line of work. There's nothing about that that causes me to step down.

Ted Simons: And here now to talk about the politics of today's announcement is Chris Herstam, he served as governor Fife Symington's chief of staff and is a former lawmaker. Herstam now works for the law firm of Lewis and Roca. Good to see you again.

Chris Herstam: Good evening.

Ted Simons: Is this a surprise?

Chris Herstam: I wasn't surprised, simply because I had talked to a staffer of Kyl's several years ago, Frankly, right after he got reelected last time, four years ago, and there was a feeling then by the staffer that that was going to be his last election. So I think some people very close to Kyl sort of had a clue that last election was going to be his last one. So when the rumors were going around the last couple months, I sort of had come to the conclusion that he would probably announce his retirement. Why he picked this month, I don't know. Why he did it this early, I don't know. I think he mentioned in his comments in the news conference he wanted to give potential candidates a lot of advance notice. So I think we have to take him for his word.

Ted Simons: Internal errors on politics, especially on the Republican side, seems pretty rough and tumble. A couple of sides going after -- does that play at all any part in how he could see himself as a leader here in the state and moving that forward? Did he see any problems there?

Chris Herstam: You have to remember, Kyl endorsed Ron Carmichael, running for state chairman. Most of the Congress people did. And he was beaten at the state party convention. The Tea Party element, or the grass-roots element that actually had been against McCain for many years, they came out against Kyl's candidate. And so he played that game, Frankly I that I was another tip-off that he wouldn't run, normally Kyl is cautious with regards to internal party politics, but he stuck his neck out in that race for party chairman, his candidate lost, but I think he did it because he knew he wouldn't run and it wouldn't cost him anything.

Ted Simons: Interesting, OK. Is this a precursor to anything else? I know today he said he wasn't interested in president, vice-president still seems to hang out there a little bit. Anything going on here as far as future ambitions?

Chris Herstam: Well, he's been a U.S. senator now, been in Congress as of next year, 26 years. Can't do much better than that Frankly, except running for president. And he said he wasn't interested in that. He's always said for the last year or two if somebody wanted to put him on the ticket as vice-president he would do that, but once again I think what you see is what you get and what he says is accurate. He's been in Congress almost 26 years now, and I think he just wants to do other things in life, family things, he's a big Nascar fan, he can travel the circuit if he wants to.

Ted Simons: What will Jon Kyl's legacy be? He still has work to do, and it sounds like he's gearing up, knowing he does haven't to campaign, he's going to be active. Until now, what do you think?

Chris Herstam: I think he's done some excellent things for the country as well as the state with regards to water. And water law and reform and so forth. And some important agreements. He's always been a water expert even before he got into Congress as an attorney he was. Jon Kyl is a senator's senator. He doesn't grandstand, he isn't interested in the interviews and the media, he can do it very well, but he really works behind the scenes, is a detailed oriented individual, rational, he's very conservative, but he's easy to deal with, he can work with both sides of the aisle. He's just a class act, and that's what Arizona is going to lose so much of.

Ted Simons: Alright, let's try to find out what Arizona will get once he does step down and the new senator is elected. We could spend all day listing the names. Give us -- handicap some early favorites.

Chris Herstam: Probably every elected official in the state of Arizona is thinking, "Gosh, I'd like to do this." But I think when you look at the sensible contenders, you look at the congressional candidates. Certainly Jeff flake would be a leading candidate, Trent Franks might think about it, john Shadegg, who left in a retired from his congressional seat, I think will eye the seat as well. I that congressional group will be very interested. Also there's a new guy on the block named Ben Quayle that may be thinking about it too. There was always articles written about how his dad had done some fund-raising for him, and had made the comment he may be in the U.S. senate sooner than you think. As he was fund-raising for him. So did they know something? I don't know.

Ted Simons: Any dark horses out there? Anyone that people aren't necessarily looking at first?

Chris Herstam: Yes. I think there is a dark horse. Somebody that would be very formidable if you wanted to jump in the Republican primary race, and that's senate president Russell Pearce.

Ted Simons: Interesting. Say more, please. How formidable?

Chris Herstam: I think, a low turnout Republican primary where the immigration issue is critical, if Russell Pearce wanted to get in this race and it was crowded field of Congress people, and he's got the Tea Party senate and he's leading the Tea Party movement, and the grass-roots workers that we just talked about that defeated Kyl's candidate, their big -- they're big fans of Russell Pearce, I think he would be a very fascinating candidate. Whether he wants to do that or not remains to be seen. There's rumors that Sheriff Joe is not going to run again, and he's always been interested in the sheriff position. So I think Russell Pearce may have lots of options the next election cycle.

Ted Simons: Governor Brewer a possibility?

Chris Herstam: Well, she would have to resign to run, and I just think she's more state oriented, she's got a full four-year term here, I can't see her leaving that -- the governor's office and going to Washington. Like the last governor did.

Ted Simons: Let's talk about that last governor. Let's get to the Democratic side now. Obviously her name is first on the list. How likely is it that she would run?

Chris Herstam: I think it's very unlikely because I think she would simply read the tea lives and realize she can't win. When she left and made the decision to go to Washington, she became part of the Obama administration. Obama is probably going to lose Arizona in 2012. And once again, with the immigration issues, and the health care issues, and Arizona suing and so forth, I think it would be hard for Napolitano to wear that Obama cloak around her and be successful in a statewide race.

Ted Simons: Some other names, Terry Goddard, Phil Gordon, Jim Peterson, will those names be around?

Chris Herstam: Sure. But the Democratic bench is not very deep. And so they have to turn to people that have run and lost already. That always tells you that they don't have a lot of up and coming candidates, and that's probably one of those names you just said, maybe the very likely Democratic nominee.

Ted Simons: Last question let me ask you, is there any dark horse on the Democratic side? Someone we're not thinking about right now?

Chris Herstam: The only democrat that I can think of that would be a sure winner would be Gabrielle Giffords. But obviously we don't know how long that recuperation period is going to be. The odds are sort of would tell us was the senate campaign would start a year from now she'll need more time to do that, but if her miracle recovery continued, she would be unbeatable.

Ted Simons: Wow, interesting stuff. Chris, good to have you here.

Chris Herstam: My pleasure.

Chris Herstam:political analyst;

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