Sen. John Nelson, a veteran politician and longtime legislator, abruptly announced today that he is retiring from public service and is dropping his bid for re-election.
Nelson’s decision paves the way for Sen. Don Shooter, R-Yuma, to secure the Senate seat in Legislative District 13.
With Nelson dropping out, Shooter becomes the lone candidate for the position.
The race was shaping up to be one of the most contentious of the 2012 elections, as Nelson was viewed as a more centrist Republican, while Shooter is a leading Tea Party activist.
As a result of redistricting, the two incumbents had found themselves in the same district.
“After a lot of consideration and discussions with my wife and family, I have decided to retire from public service and withdraw my name for consideration for state Senate in LD13,” Nelson said in a written statement.
“Twenty-eight years is a long time in elected office and it is time for me to spend more time with my wife, my children, and my grandchildren,” he said.
Nelson, who is 76, said he plans to work on the passage of a ballot measure he authored to allow for trust land exchanges in order to preserve military installations in Arizona.
In the same email, Gov. Jan Brewer touted Nelson’s work, calling his commitment to protect military bases here “unparalleled.”
“From his time at the City of Phoenix to his service in the Legislature, John Nelson is a model for what elected officials should strive to be,” Brewer said, thanking Nelson for his more than two decades of public service.
News of his retirement plan quickly spread, and so did accolades from Capitol observers.
Kurt Davis, a Republican political consultant, called him a “class act.”
“He is a class act and a credit to public service,” Davis wrote on his Twitter account. “A true loss for Arizona. A good man!”
Nelson’s campaign only raised a small sum during the first five months of the year — about $2,000.
But he had a stockpile of cash from previous campaigns. Nelson had $27,000 by May 31, more cash on hand than Shooter.
Shooter earlier had told the Arizona Capitol Times he and Nelson reached a deal to avoid running against each other.
Under the supposed deal, Nelson would run for the House while Shooter would run for the Senate.
Nelson initially refused to comment, but he later affirmed that he was running to keep his seat in the Senate.
“I’m not sure there ever was (a deal) in place,” Nelson had said. “I’m running for the office that is in my district that I have been for four years.”
Due to redistricting, Nelson was drawn into the Legislative District 13, which leans Republican.
Shooter, meanwhile, decided to move into Nelson’s district after his home was carved into a Democratic-leaning district. Shooter said LD13 is only several blocks away from his current home.