Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano will not seek the open U.S. Senate seat in her home state of Arizona, preferring to remain in the Obama Cabinet, a spokesman confirmed Friday.
The former Arizona governor informed Democratic leaders of her decision this week, coming to a quick decision following incumbent Republican Sen. Jon Kyl’s announcement he would retire when his term expires in 2013.
“She cares deeply about Arizona, but the Secretary intends to continue doing the job that the President asked her to do -- protecting the American people from terrorism and other threats to our country,” Sean Smith, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, said in a statement.
As a proven vote-getter in a historically Republican state, Napolitano was quickly talked about as a potential candidate in the 2012 election. But her ties to the Obama administration, particularly as it relates to the battle over Arizona’s controversial illegal immigration law, may have tarnished her brand in the state, Democratic campaign strategists say.
A number of other Democrats are said to be considering the race; a potential run by Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has not been dismissed either.
Before the Tucson shootings, Giffords was viewed as one of the best the Democratic Party, in Arizona and elsewhere, had to offer. She’s moderate, charismatic and a proven fundraiser. And she had won reelection in about as tough a political environment as has existed for incumbent Democrats in a generation. As a Senate candidate, she would enjoy a national profile.
Giffords continues to rehabilitate at a facility in Houston — and there is no timetable for her return to her official duties. “There will be plenty of time to figure out what the future may hold,” said C.J. Karamargin, Giffords’ spokesman. “Right now, the office is focused is on the congresswoman’s recovery and doing the job what the congresswoman has asked us to do — helping her constituents.”
Republican Rep. Jeff Flake announced his candidacy this week and quickly earned the endorsement of the Club for Growth, a leading conservative advocacy group.