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Loss of Sen. John McCain pushed Grant Woods to pursue Senate run

Grant Woods gives a tribute during a memorial service for Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., at North Phoenix Baptist Church on Thursday, Aug. 30, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, Pool)

PHOENIX — As the former chief of staff for the late Sen. John McCain, Grant Woods is no stranger to Washington, D.C.

But with the death of his close friend last month, Woods has gained a renewed interest in returning to the nation’s capital, but this time as a candidate.

Woods, in an exclusive interview with KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Bruce St. James and Pamela Hughes on Thursday, said he is “seriously considering” a run for the U.S. Senate — as a Democrat.

“I think it would be great. I think it’s a great job. It’s the one job that I’ve always thought was, ‘You could really serve your country,'” Woods said.

“And I have several really good friends that I have served with that were in the Senate. They were all Democrats, coincidentally.”

Woods said he believed he had served his country already, with an eight-year stint as attorney general for the state of Arizona, but said he looked into running for an elected office after McCain died on Aug. 25 at 81 after a yearlong battle with brain cancer.

“What changed was real simple: The realization that we don’t have John McCain anymore,” the 64-year-old Woods said.

“I was able to rationalize and lean on my friend John McCain for a long time now. It wasn’t lost on me that at every one of these services and everywhere we went, what we were talking about was that John McCain dedicated his life to his country and to service and to being in the arena, he wasn’t on the sidelines,” he added.

“And so the question I have to answer…was, ‘Should I stay on the sidelines for the rest of my life?’ Because this is it, basically, or do I have an obligation to follow John McCain, not just talk about John McCain, but to follow him and get in the fight, regardless of the consequences? And that’s what I’m trying to grapple with right now.”

Woods was elected to his attorney general position as a Republican. But Woods said he would not pursue a Senate run as a Republican because of what the party has become.

“Maybe I will run as an independent, maybe I will run as a Democrat. I will not run as a Republican. I also don’t want to bang my head against the wall and that’s what I’d be doing with the Republican Party,” Woods said.

“The party was different then and this party rejected John McCain,” he added, saying that the party picked Duncan Hunter to win the 2008 presidential race.

“This is the party of (President Donald) Trump right now, and that’s not where I’m at. In fact, I’m a long ways away from that.”

But Woods said he still has a lot of “soul searching” to do before he dives head first into a Senate campaign.

“What changed is really this idea of not being a hypocrite and responding to John McCain’s call that we have to do things that are not about ourselves,” Woods said.

“That’s the problem — believe me, my life’s been fine. I have a lot of fun, but again I know what John stood for and it was duty on our country,” he added.

“John’s not here, so I just have to reassess that and say maybe I need to go. Maybe I need to give it a try.”

The news of Woods seeking a Senate run first surfaced in the New York Times and then was reported again in The Washington Post.

Woods told the Post that he had discussed the idea with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and other Democratic senators.

The 2020 election would be Woods’ first opportunity to run for Senate in Arizona.

Former U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl was tapped by Gov. Doug Ducey to replace McCain, but Kyl has only committed to serving through the end of the current session, which ends in January.

If he steps down, the governor will name another Republican replacement, who will hold the seat until the 2020 general election. At that time, Arizona voters will pick the person who will serve until the end of McCain’s term, which runs through 2022.

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