Congressman Salmon Retires

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Arizona Congressman Matt Salmon announced his upcoming retirement. Rebekah Sanders, who covers congress for the Arizona Republic, will talk about Salmon’s announcement and who’s going to be vying to replace him.

Ted Simons: Coming up next on Arizona Horizon, Congressman Matt Salmon says he will not run for re-election and find out where you can forage to edible plants in the state, those stories next on Arizona Horizon.

Video: Arizona Horizon is made possible by contributions from the friends of Arizona PBS. Members of your PBS station. Thank you.

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to Arizona Horizon. I'm Ted Simons. Arizona Republican congressman Matt Salmon today announced that he will not run for re-election. Salmon represents Arizona's fifth congressional district which covers east valley areas of Mesa, chandler, Gilbert, queen creek and Apache Junction. He issued the statement when I return to the House of Representatives in 2013 the President's disastrous policies are putting our nation at risk and abroad. Over the past three years I worked to curtail the expansion of peace-time spending in America's history by working with members from both sides of the aisle. This is something to be proud of. But the most important job that I have is that of husband and father, and over the years I missed too many opportunities to spend time with my family. I truly believe they should come first in my life and after much soul searching I have decided against running for re-election. I give you my word I won't be stopping my fight for our nation's future but will be continuing it as a constituent in the valley of the sun. It has been an Honor serving the constituents of Arizona's fifth district and look forward to seeing you back home in Arizona. Now, later today, salmon said that there was no other motive in his announcement, that indeed, family considerations led to the move.

Matt Salmon: My family is incredibly important to me, and I missed them more than I can say. I am just not with them most of the time. About 80% of the time I am away from my family, and it has gotten to be something that I am not willing to trade any more.

Ted Simons: Immediately after announcing his retirement he made it clear who he wants to succeed him in office. He announced his support for current state Senate President Andy Biggs, which led to Biggs announcing his intention to run for Salmon's seat. Here to talk about the surprising political news is Rebekah Sanders, who covers Arizona's congressional delegation for the Arizona Republic. Good to see you here.

Rebekah Sanders: Thanks for having me.

Ted Simons: I am calling this surprising, this is surprising, isn't it?

Rebekah Sanders: It's a bombshell, and no one was expecting that congressman salmon would be retiring, especially when just a few months ago, he was considering running for Senate against John McCain, you know, higher ambitions. So, it definitely took the political world by surprise this morning, and but, you know, he has had a 25-year career in Arizona politics. And all his children and grandchildren for the first time are back home in Arizona, so he says that it's time to call it quits.

Ted Simons: All right, time to call it quits there. The announcement, though, immediately to help the state Senate President, Andy Biggs, to run for his -- was that a surprise?

Rebekah Sanders: It's definitely putting a thumb on the scale of that race. You know, there is, definitely, two ways of thinking of it. Perhaps, he should not endorse and should just let the voters decide and democracy, you know, run its course, but of course, he also wants to make sure that he's replaced by someone just as conservative as he is, and with the same philosophical bend, and he says that Biggs is the guy for that.

Ted Simons: And I was going to say considering that district, though, I mean, almost any candidate would have to have the same bend, wouldn't they?

Rebekah Sanders: It's a safe district, and quite conservative. This is in the east valley. A large Mormon population, and very, very right leaning, but some are speculating that if enough conservatives get in, and split the vote, that there might be a path for a more moderate pick, for instance, former Mayor scot Smith who ran unsuccessfully for Governor, in 2014, so it's somewhat up in the air.

Ted Simons: And ok, Scott Smith, I want to get this, to salmon in a second and his legacy but let's talk about the horse race here, scot Smith, interesting, any other names?

Rebekah Sanders: So many names coming up, and no one so far today, besides Biggs, saying they are in, and a lot of people saying well, you know, I am going to let this day be for Matt Salmon to kind of, you know, get the glory and then I will decide over the weekend. But, we have got names such as Denny Barney or Steve on the county board of supervisors. We have got a number of state lawmakers, for instance, Kelly Townsend or Justin Olson. And then, a variety of just business people, Christine Jones, who was at go daddy and ran for Governor, or Travis Grantham, who is in aviation, his company, actually, hosted the trump rally in December, so there are so many people. It will take time.

Ted Simons: Tentacles of the trump machine continue, huh? And what about Kirk Adams? Kirk Adams ran for that seat.

Rebekah Sanders: That's right. So this is probably the first name on people's lips. Kirk Adams is a former speaker of the state house, and he ran for this district against salmon, in 2012, and lost. And so, you would think that he would have a great chance at this, but he's in the Governor's office right now, chief of staff, a very high profile job, that you probably don't want to give up, and also, there is a political complication here, that axiom public affairs, a new political strategy, group, that has close ties to the Governor, is running, and Andy Biggs' campaign, and salmon's chief of staff is joining axiom to run --

Ted Simons: Boy.

Rebekah Sanders: So it might be awkward, and if an ally runs against an ally.

Ted Simons: Between that and the fact that the representative salmon immediately announces who he wants to replace -- it all seems awfully Insular.

Rebekah Sanders: It can definitely look pretty insidery, and I think that will be, actually, to the benefit of anyone who runs against Biggs, is saying, look, I am not the hand picked one. And I might be the underdog. But, you know, go for me, and I have heard that coming from some of these folks who are considering a race.

Ted Simons: Interesting, and as far as the congressman salmon is concerned, his legacy in Congress, seemed like he was against a lot of things. Is that what he, basically, was, a fighter?

Rebekah Sanders: He was a fire brand. He you go back to his first stint in Congress in the 1990s, you know, the contract with America, and the Gingrich-style conservative politics, and then he was part of a group that led a coupe against Gingrich saying he was not being conservative enough, and that failed. And then kind of did the same thing recently with speaker John Boehner getting basically ousted by the conservatives, and Matt Salmon was in there saying we need new leadership.

Ted Simons: So, with that in mind, he's coming back now, the second time now, the first time he left because of a pledge, and no one else took the pledge but he did, to his credit, and he was back, and now, he's coming back home. Is this the kind of thing where if a Doug Ducey moves on or gets hand picked for some sort of thing by another person, could he run for Governor?

Rebekah Sanders: I would not say it's out of the question. He ran for Governor against Janet Napolitano in the 2000 and lost, and he's got great name I.D., and huge network, and I am not counting it out but perhaps this is the end and he goes into the private life and helps the party as a private citizen.

Ted Simons: Yeah, we will see. Again, surprising, and good to have you here with your analysis and good to see you again.

Rebekah Sanders: Thanks for having me.

Rebekah Sanders: Journalist Arizona Republic

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