PHOENIX — Arizona State Senator Kelly Townsend, after dropping her candidacy for Congress, filed an expression of interest Monday seeking re-election in the same district as fellow Republican Senator Wendy Rogers.
Townsend and Rogers became entangled over the past week after the Senate censured Rogers for his violent rhetoric, and now Arizona could see a rare one-on-one primary battle between sitting senators in August.
“I recognize that with the late change in the redistricting commission, that means a GOP primary with another state senator, but the events of the past week make it clear that only one of us can effectively move forward. the causes we all claim to care about,” Townsend said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.
For immediate release. pic.twitter.com/pWfHkX5vhe
— Senator Kelly Townsend (@AZKellyT) March 8, 2022
“Hanging out with white supremacists, supporting them and declaring them the best of patriots is all Wendy Rogers has the constitutional right to do. But good and decent people are also free to find it repugnant and un-American.
Townsend said he heard “a surprising number of people in my legislative constituency asking me to stand up and fight.”
Redistricting completed after last year’s census placed the two conservatives in the new 7th Legislative District, where the winner of the Republican primary will be heavily favored in November’s general election.
LD7 covers a wide swath through parts of four counties from south of Flagstaff, where Rogers lives, almost to Tucson and includes Townsend’s residence in the Far East Valley.
It looked like a head-to-head clash would be avoided when Townsend announced in January that she was running for a U.S. House seat. But on Friday, she said she was withdrawing from the race for the 6th congressional district, citing the lack of approval she expected from former President Donald Trump.
Trump had already endorsed Rogers for her re-election bid in November 2021, and she now has a formidable fundraising war chest.
Rogers headed into this election year with more than $1.5 million in cash, according to filings with the state in January, while Townsend reported about $13,000 in cash. No deposit has yet been required for funds raised in 2022.
The GOP-led Arizona Senate, including most House Republicans, voted March 1 to censure Rogers after he said his political opponents would face a “newly constructed set of gallows.” She has also been criticized for attending the recent America First Political Action Conference, an annual event founded by white nationalist Nick Fuentes.
Two days after the no-confidence vote and a day before she canceled her congressional campaign, Townsend said she rejected the endorsement Rogers had given her.
“I do not wish to accept the cash donations she has requested and will respectfully return them. I continue to ask him to end his support for an outspoken anti-Semite,” Townsend said Thursday in a tweet that has since been deleted.
Townsend also mentioned his conflict with Rogers in Friday’s announcement about ending his run for Congress.
“Recently, I refused to remain silent on an important matter involving a colleague already supported by President Trump,” Townsend said in a statement. “I knew it might jeopardize the finalization of my own endorsement, but I couldn’t keep quiet.”
Townsend’s announcement on Friday said nothing about future plans, but she told The Associated Press that running against Rogers was among her options.