Flagstaff Rep. Bob Thorpe announced this week he will abandon his run for the state Senate, bowing out of a contentious Republican primary in a northern Arizona district Democrats view as one of their best shots at flipping the state Legislature.
He instead plans to run for the Coconino County Board of Supervisors, in a seat now held by his friend Jim Parks, a retired cowboy who will seek election to the state House in an adjacent district. Thorpe’s departure narrows the Republican primary field to incumbent Sen. Sylvia Allen, retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel and frequent candidate Wendy Rogers and businessman Edward Hampton, who filed to run but has not done any campaigning.
Thorpe told the Arizona Capitol Times he has been considering running for the Board of Supervisors for about a month, because Parks wanted to ensure a fellow Republican could take the seat. The pair announced their 2020 plans on a Flagstaff radio show on Wednesday.
“There’s lots of decisions to be made and lots of reasons to make a decision,” he said. “With the Senate race, there were three of us in the primary, which makes it difficult, running against Sylvia Allen, who I’ve worked closely with for quite a few years, and Wendy Rogers, who’s been running for a decade and hasn’t been able to seal the deal.”
Thorpe, first elected in 2012, would hit term limits in 2020. Allen, R-Snowflake, announced in April that she would not seek re-election, appearing to clear the way for Thorpe.
But in July, Allen changed her mind and said she would run for re-election. Party leaders and Thorpe’s other seatmate, Rep. Walter Blackman, R-Snowflake, welcomed her decision to enter the race. Senate President Karen Fann and House Speaker Rusty Bowers even headlined a fundraiser for Allen, violating an unwritten norm of not interfering in party primaries.
Thorpe said perceived favoritism for Allen didn’t force him out of the race.
“I’ve had conversations with both President Fann and Rusty, Speaker Bowers and both said they were not choosing sides in the race,” he said.
Instead, he said, he decided against running because winning a hotly contested primary would take resources that should be spent in a general election. Democrat Felecia French, now running for the Senate, came within 600 votes of beating Thorpe for his House seat last fall.
Both Blackman and Allen said they were glad to hear that Thorpe was running for the county board, saying he could bring valuable experience and knowledge to the board.
“He was a friend and I wasn’t looking forward at all to running against him,” Allen added.
Over an eventful seven years in the Legislature, Thorpe introduced legislation to make a mandatory oath to defend the constitution a high school graduation requirement, force the federal government to cede ownership of federally owned land in Arizona and forbid college students from using their dorm addresses to register to vote.
He aborted an effort to sell bulletproof vests to fellow lawmakers in 2013 after a House attorney told him it was illegal, locked down his Twitter account later that year after critics called his tweets racist and inspired constituents to launch a “#WheresBob?” hashtag campaign in 2017.
Thorpe said he plans to spend his final session focused on legislation granting cities more leeway to regulate short-term rentals and establish a property tax exemption for low-income seniors.
Parks, who has not yet filed to run in Legislative District 7, did not immediately return a phone call. He faces an uphill climb in the sprawling district, which contains all Navajo Nation land in Arizona and has historically elected only Native American Democrats.