Arizona Republican Kirk Adams stepped down Thursday as state Speaker and resigned his seat in the Legislature in order to pursue a bid for Congress.
Adams, running in the open 6th district, also announced the endorsement of Sen. Jon Kyl (R), who is retiring at the end of his term next year. Kyl’s retirement pushed Rep. Jeff Flake (R) to run for Senate and open up his solidly Republican East Valley district, for which Adams and at least two other Republicans are running.
“I’ve taken on the unions, the lobbyists, the career politicians and the voices of stagnation here in Arizona, and I intend to take them on in Congress,” Adams said in a statement. “We can’t afford to kick the can down the road anymore. We need someone who will fight to cut spending, reform entitlements, secure our border and return to the founding principles of our Constitution before it’s too late.”
To begin his campaign now, Adams was forced by state law to resign his seat. He otherwise could not have announced his Congressional campaign until January. With two other Republicans already in the race, however, he would have given them a big head start.
Former Rep. Matt Salmon, who held the seat for three terms before Flake won it in 2000, recently announced he was running again. Former state Senate Majority Leader Chuck Gray is also running.
In an interview with Roll Call on Thursday, Salmon said he looked at the Senate race but decided that the House was a better fit for him at this time. He said he knew he would be running against two friends, with Gray already running and Adams having planned to run for the seat for some time.
The East Valley has a small community feel, and there is evidence of that even among the three candidates. Adams worked on Salmon’s 2002 gubernatorial bid as a driver and personal aide. Salmon and Gray grew up together, were in the same Boy Scout troop and attended the same church.
“These are guys that I know and I like, and I just really believe that right now with the situation of our nation we need an experienced leader who can go back and deliver,” said Salmon, who also announced the endorsement of Rep. Trent Franks (R) on Thursday. “And neither one of them has near the experience that I do cutting the federal budget.”
At age 35 and with just one term under his belt, Adams defeated the incumbent Arizona Speaker to become the youngest person ever elected to that position. In the three years he led the chamber, Adams says he “negotiated and authored the first structurally balanced budget in at least five years.”
In his endorsement, Kyl said Adams would lead a new generation of conservatives in Congress.
“Kirk is exactly the kind of fresh, conservative leader we need to send to Congress to stand up for our principles. He’ll make an outstanding congressman,” Kyl said. “My only regret is that I won’t be there to serve with him when he’s elected.”
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., takes a selfie with his cut-out head during the Hoops for Youth 16th annual charity basketball game held at George Washington University's Smith Center, September 8, 2014. The members of Congress team beat the lobbyist team 46-40. Buy photo here.