Arizona state Sens. Kelly Townsend, Wendy Rogers lined up for GOP primary showdown

Mar 8, 2022, 11:57 AM | Updated: 1:44 pm

Arizona state Sen. Wendy Rogers, left, endorsed Sen. Kelly Townsend for a congressional run, but pl...

Arizona state Sen. Wendy Rogers, left, endorsed Sen. Kelly Townsend for a congressional run, but plans have changed and the two might instead face off in a Republican state Senate primary this year. (Facebook Photo/Wendy Rogers)

(Facebook Photo/Wendy Rogers)

PHOENIX – Arizona state Sen. Kelly Townsend, on the heels of dropping her congressional bid, filed a statement of interest Monday to seek reelection in the same district as fellow Republican Sen. Wendy Rogers.

Townsend and Rogers became entangled over the past week after the Senate censured Rogers over her violent rhetoric, and now Arizona might see a rare head-to-head primary battle between sitting state senators in August.

“I recognize that, with the redistricting commission’s late change, this means a GOP primary with a fellow State Senator, but the events of the last week or so make it clear that only one of us can effectively advance the causes we all claim to care about,” Townsend said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.

“Hanging out with white supremacists, endorsing them, and declaring them the finest of patriots is all something Wendy Rogers has a constitutional right to do. But good and decent people are also free to find it repulsive and un-American.”

Townsend said she heard “from a surprising number of people in my legislative district asking me to stand and fight.”

Redistricting completed after last year’s census put the two conservatives in the new 7th Legislative District, where the Republican primary winner will be heavily favored in the November general election.

LD7 covers a large swath across parts of four counties from southern Flagstaff, where Rogers lives, almost to Tucson and includes Townsend’s residence in the far East Valley.

It appeared a head-to-head matchup would be avoided when Townsend announced in January she was running for a U.S. House seat. But on Friday she said she was pulling out of the 6th Congressional District race, citing the lack of an endorsement she’d expected from former President Donald Trump.

Trump already had endorsed Rogers for her reelection 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 cash on hand, according to records filed with the state in January, while Townsend reported about $13,000 cash on hand. There haven’t been any filings required yet for funds raised in 2022.

The GOP-led Arizona Senate, including most of the chamber’s Republicans, voted March 1 to censure Rogers after she said her political opponents should face a “newly built set of gallows.” She also was criticized for participating in the recent America First Political Action Conference, an annual event founded by white nationalist Nick Fuentes.

Two days after the censure vote, and a day before she called off her congressional campaign, Townsend said was rejecting the endorsement Rogers had given her.

“I do not wish to accept financial donations that she solicited and will respectfully return them. I continue to call on her to end her support of an open antisemite,” Townsend said Thursday in a tweet that has since been deleted.

Townsend also mentioned her conflict with Rogers in Friday’s announcement about ending her congressional bid.

“Recently, I refused to remain silent about an important issue involving a colleague who was already endorsed by President Trump,” Townsend said in a statement. “I knew that doing so might jeopardize my own endorsement from ever being finalized, but I could not remain silent.”

Townsend’s announcement Friday didn’t say anything about future plans, but she told The Associated Press that running against Rogers was among her options.

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Arizona state Sens. Kelly Townsend, Wendy Rogers lined up for GOP primary showdown