Ward to resign seat for U.S. Senate run

Ward to resign seat for U.S. Senate run

Sen. Kelli Ward, R-Lake Havasu City. (Source: CBS 5 News)
Sen. Kelli Ward, R-Lake Havasu City. (Source: CBS 5 News)

With the 2016 legislative session just a month away, Sen. Kelli Ward will resign her seat to focus full-time on her Republican primary challenge to U.S. Sen. John McCain.

A campaign spokesman confirmed that Ward, R-Lake Havasu City, will step down on December 15.

In a press statement, Ward said she initially believed that she would be able to “fight the good fight” in the state Senate while she campaigned to unseat the 30-year incumbent.

“I am now convinced that I can help fight the bigger battle against The Beltway and … help resolve the massive failure of the federal government to truly look out for the interests of Arizona by devoting my abilities full time to defeat John McCain,” she said.

Ward was first elected to the Senate in 2012 and was re-elected two years later. She chairs the Senate Education Committee.

With Ward on the way out, the Legislative District 5 Precinct committeemen will be tasked with picking three possible replacements. The Mohave County Board of Supervisors will then choose Ward’s successor from those three.

Ward’s counterpart in the Arizona House of Representatives, Republican Rep. Sonny Borrelli, said he will seek the appointment to her Senate seat.

Borrelli was already planning to run for Ward’s seat in the 2016 election, and has been preparing to face off against the district’s former Senator, Republican Ron Gould.

But Gould said he wouldn’t seek the appointment to the Senate because he doesn’t want to be “beholden to other politicians” who would choose him as the appointee. He said he will instead try to win the seat in the 2016 election.

Borrelli called the idea that the appointee would beholden to the county board of supervisors “a ridiculous statement.”

“(Gould) fails to remember there is a process, and the district precinct committeemen are the ones who pick three names (of possible appointees for the county board of supervisors to choose from),” Borrelli said.

But Gould said the appointment process “smacks of cronyism” and he wants no part in it.

“When you look at it from the perspective of the voter, the citizen, it just looks like the good old boys appointing their buddy, which is what it always is. And I’m not a good old boy,” Gould said.

Borrelli said he already has support from four of the county’s five supervisors in his 2016 campaign for the Senate, and he expects they will support him for the appointment as well.

Mohave County Supervisor Steven Moss said he is backing Borrelli, both in the 2016 election and for the appointment to Ward’s seat.

Although Moss said he respects both men, he considers Borrelli the more successful lawmaker.

During his eight years in the Senate, Gould made a name for himself as a staunch conservative, too conservative even for most of his caucus. Gould was a frequent critic of his fellow Republicans, and a recurrent “no” vote on legislation pushed by his party-mates. In return, many of his bills fell by the wayside.

Borrelli, on the other hand, had the most bills signed into law during the 2015 legislative session –tying Ward with 19 bills signed into law each.

Being appointed to the Ward’s seat would give a 2016 candidate a leg up, as they would then be the incumbent.

But Gould noted that when he ran for Lake Havasu City Council in 2002, he faced a recently-appointed incumbent and beat him.

“(Not seeking the appointment) didn’t hurt my chances that time,” he said.