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Murphy opts to run for Peoria City Council rather than Senate

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Sen. Rick Murphy won’t seek reelection to the Arizona State Senate, and will instead run for the Peoria City Council.

The Peoria Republican failed to file the necessary petitions on Wednesday to be nominated to the ballot in Legislative District 21, where he’s served in the Senate since 2011. Instead, Murphy filed 183 signatures to run for a city council seat in Peoria’s Pine District, where he’ll try to oust longtime incumbent Carlo Leone.

“After some reflection, I decided to move in a different direction than coming back to the Senate and transition to a new phase in life,” Murphy announced on the Senate floor Thursday morning.

By opting out of the Senate race, Murphy avoids what was widely considered to be a difficult primary challenge from Rep. Debbie Lesko, who announced in November she would run against the incumbent senator.

Lesko, R-Glendale, said Murphy’s “personal struggles” with Child Protective Services could have made the lawmaker susceptible to a Democratic challenger and potentially cost the GOP a seat in the Senate, motivating her to run for the seat.

Peoria police investigated Murphy for sexual abuse last summer after one of his adopted sons told detectives the senator molested the boy repeatedly during the past six years. The accusations prompted investigators to take a second look at a 2011 case, again focused on allegations that the senator abused a child in his care.

In both cases, police determined there weren’t enough witnesses and evidence to press charges, but officials with CPS removed Murphy’s children from his home. The senator has been mired in a court battle with the agency since then.

“I cannot ignore the growing concern voiced by people in our district that Rick’s personal struggles may not only distract him from his job, but may be used by others against him in an election campaign,” Lesko said in a statement last fall.

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