Democrat Steve Owens and Republican Kris Mayes have decided not to run for the U.S. House seat being vacated by Rick Renzi next year.
The double development is certain to bring some order to the emerging fields of Democratic and Republican candidates running to represent Arizona’s 1st Congressional District, which takes in a vast swath of northern and eastern Arizona.
Other possible office-seekers were thought to be awaiting indications from the two potential heavyweight candidates before firming up their own intentions concerning the high-stakes race for the state’s only open congressional seat.
Owens will retain his post as director of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, while Mayes will serve the rest of her term on the Arizona Corporation Commission.
With Owens and Mayes out, the list of contenders is becoming more clear.
On the Democratic side, former state Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, lawyer Howard Shanker and former TV reporter Mary Kim Titla are already in. Former Casa Grande Mayor Bob Mitchell is considering entering the race.
On the Republican side, Munds Park talk radio host Sydney Hay is in. State Rep. Bill Konopnicki, state Sen. Tom O’Halleran and rancher Steve Pierce are on the radar.
Renzi, the Republican incumbent, is under FBI investigation for possible public corruption. He has withdrawn from all of his House committee assignments and has announced he will not seek re-election in 2008.
“It’s something I thought very hard about and put a lot of consideration into,” Mayes said. “It was very flattering to have so many people in (Congressional District 1) suggest I consider running, but I just decided that my place is at the commission right now.”
Owens could not be reached for comment Wednesday. His friend and political adviser Bob Grossfeld said he called Gov. Janet Napolitano on Tuesday to inform her of his decision.
“The issue really was a family issue, and really was from day one,” said Grossfeld, president of The Media Guys, a Scottsdale-based consulting firm.
Owens ran for Congress twice before against Republican J.D. Hayworth in the former 6th Congressional District.