Democratic state Sen. Kirsten Engel resigned September 8 to focus on her congressional campaign in an open southern Arizona seat.
Engel, D-Tucson, is expected to face fellow Democratic lawmaker Daniel Hernandez in the 2022 primary, depending on how new congressional districts take shape. A third legislator, Rep. Randy Friese, D-Tucson, ended his campaign for the seat last week, saying he wasn’t ready to give up his work as a doctor.
U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz., who represents Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District, is not running for re-election.
Engel told the Arizona Capitol Times she’s been thinking about resigning for a while and decided to end her run in the Senate to give her legislative district and the Pima County Board of Supervisors enough time to appoint a replacement – and give that replacement enough time to get to know the job – before the next legislative session begins in January.
“I want to make sure the constituents of LD10 have a good, committed senator,” she said.
Engel was elected to the Senate last year, replacing term-limited Senate Minority Leader David Bradley. She previously served two terms in the state House.
Engel and Rep. Domingo DeGrazia said their third seatmate, freshman Rep. Stephanie Stahl Hamilton, is interested in the Senate appointment. Stahl Hamilton, who did not return a phone call, already filed to run for Senate next year anticipating Engel’s absence.
DeGrazia announced last week that he will not seek re-election, and he said he isn’t interested in moving to the Senate.
Two Democrats, Morgan Abraham and Charles “Charlie” Verdin, have already filed statements of interest to run in LD10, and DeGrazia said he has heard from a few other Democrats who are interested in running.
“There’s kind of a lot of paperwork in assembling campaign committees, and your team and all that stuff, and because the district lines are not set yet, or at least not known, I think some folks are just waiting,” DeGrazia said.
Provided LD10 still has at least 30 elected Democratic precinct committeemen, that group of party faithful will pick three top candidates and forward them to the Pima County Board of Supervisors. The board will then pick a candidate to replace Engel.
The same process would repeat for a House seat if Stahl Hamilton receives the appointment. While appointments take place during a matter of days during the legislative session, the process can take close to a month in the interim.
Engel said she hopes her successor will continue her work on climate bills, which she couldn’t get through the Legislature.
“I really would have liked to have made more progress on water and addressing the climate crisis,” she said.
Several other lawmakers, most of them Democrats, are expected to resign before the end of the year to focus on campaigning for higher office.