So long, Gov. Jan Brewer.
The Arizona Republican – who has been at the center of heated debates on guns, immigration, health care and, most recently, gay rights – announced on Wednesday that she will not seek a third term as state executive.
“There’s a time to be, and a time to go,” she said in an exclusive interview with Capitol Media Services. “It’s the right time for me to move on.”
Brewer made the formal announcement at Park Meadows Elementary School in North Phoenix, where her two children once attended, and where she said she first became interested in politics and running for school board.
Though news of her political retirement is unsurprising, the 69-year-old had dangled the possibility of running for re-election in 2014 and waging a constitutional challenge to the state’s two-term limit for governors. Brewer insists that because she succeeded then-Gov. Janet Napolitano, who left her post in 2009 to become President Obama’s Homeland Security secretary, the first year of her governorship did not count as her term, and that she would still be eligible to run again. Legal experts, however, believe it would have been a long shot.
But the issue is irrelevant now, and Brewer’s coming departure leaves open an already-crowded field of potential Republican successors. In the interview with Capitol Media Services, Brewer sidestepped questions of who she would endorse, saying only that her party had “a good bench of candidates.”
As governor, Brewer made waves for signing a controversial law in 2010 that made it possible for more Arizonans to carry concealed weapons without permits. She also cleared a measure that same year that criminalized the transporting or harboring of undocumented immigrants and gave police more power to detain and arrest those suspected of being in the country illegally. Federal judges have voided some parts of SB 1070, widely regarded as one of the most restrictive immigration laws in the nation, but Brewer is still fighting in court to enforce the rest. She was reportedly tussling with the president over the immigration law in 2012, shortly after Air Force One touched down in Phoenix, when photographers snapped an infamous image of the governor pointing her finger in the commander-in-chief’s face.
On other issues, however, Brewer has defied expectations from her own party. In 2010, she backed a temporary sales tax hike as an alternative to slashing $1 billion a year from the state’s budget. More recently, she worked to pass the Medicaid expansion in Arizona, which she argued could add $2 billion to the state’s economy along with thousands of jobs. Last month, she vetoed a Republican-backed religious freedom bill that opponents say would have made it easier to discriminate against gays and lesbians.
Shortly after Brewer’s retirement announcement, Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain thanked the governor “for her years of outstanding service.”
“First entering public service as a mother concerned about the workings of her local school board, Governor Brewer has served with distinction at every level of state and local government over the last three decades,” McCain said in a statement. “Throughout her career, Governor Brewer has always been a great champion for our state, and I wish her all the best in her future endeavors.”
Though Brewer is leaving the governor’s office at the end of the year, she plans on using money from her PACs to elect candidates she supports.
“I’m not going away,” said Brewer to Capitol Media Services. “I’m going to participate, I’m going to speak out on issues that I believe that are important.”