Embattled Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.) tapped down speculation Thursday that he is telling his allies that he will not seek re-election — but he appears to be leaning toward the exit door rather than seeking a fourth term.
“To be honest, I was never going to be here a great while,” Renzi told Roll Call on Thursday. “I’m a businessman at heart.”
Renzi said he would make his plans known in the next couple of weeks. “I haven’t announced anything, but I usually make that decision over the break,” he said, noting that he had told his staff that he would make an announcement in August.
A senior leadership source said they expected Renzi to retire, but that he had not formally informed GOP leaders yet of his intentions.
Renzi has been widely expected to retire since an April FBI raid on an Arizona business owned by his family revealed that the Arizonan is under federal investigation.
It was reported following the raid that Renzi faces scrutiny for allegedly trying to engineer a federal land swap to improperly enrich a friend and former business partner. As a result, Renzi was forced to step down from his committee assignments on the Intelligence, Financial Services and Natural Resources panels.
He also removed himself from the National Republican Congressional Committee’s Regaining Our Majority Program — which aids vulnerable incumbents — after the raid, immediately prompting speculation that he was considering resigning from the House, or at least not seeking re-election. If Renzi does announce his retirement in August, it is unclear if he will serve out his term or leave early, prompting a special election.
Renzi — who has heavily self-funded his prior campaigns — reported only $20,000 in cash on hand and $106,000 in debt for legal services to Patton Boggs through June 30 on his most recent Federal Election Commission report.
The geographically vast and heavily rural 1st district is a majority Democratic district in terms of party enrollment. But it leans conservative, voting for President Bush in 2000 and 2004 while electing Renzi to three consecutive terms.
Accordingly, Democrats are laying the groundwork to heavily target the 1st district in 2008, with several Democrats and Republicans jockeying to run for Renzi’s seat in 2008 under the assumption that he will retire at the end of his term — or possibly even resign beforehand.
Among the Republicans eyeing Renzi’s seat are former Arizona Senate President Ken Bennett; 2002 GOP primary candidate Sydney Hay; and state Rep. Bill Konopnicki. Among Democrats, three candidates already have filed to run, including former state Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick; attorney Howard Shanker; and Mary Kim Titla, a former television reporter.