Republican race to succeed Matt Salmon gets crowded, competitive, costly

The Republican primary race to succeed U.S. Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz. in Congress could be crowded and very competitive.

Salmon announced earlier this year he was retiring from his East Valley seat, one of the most conservative in the country.

Salmon endorsed Arizona Senate President Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, to succeed him. U.S. Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., also backs Biggs.

And when other potential successors such as Kirk Adams, chief of staff to Gov. Doug Ducey, and former Mesa Mayor and interim Valley Metro CEO Scott Smith didn’t jump in it looked like the table was set for Biggs, a conservative policy wonk.

But the Republican primary table is getting more crowded with some legitimate contenders:

• Former GoDaddy general counsel Christine Jones, who ran for governor in 2014, has set up an exploratory committee for a potential run for Salmon’s seat.

• Former Maricopa County Supervisor Don Stapley is in the race. Stapley spent almost two decades on the board and tangled with Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and former county attorney Andrew Thomas. The Stapley family is well-known in the East Valley. They were a Mesa pioneer family and it doesn’t hurt that east side streets (Stapley Road and Stapley Drive) bear their name.

• State Rep. Justin Olson, R-Mesa, is also in the race. He is a tax policy expert and previously worked for Franks and the Arizona Tax Research Association.

Biggs is arguably the second most powerful person at the State Capitol after Ducey. The Gilbert attorney — who is also known for winning $10 million in the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes in 1993 — yields plenty of power at the Legislature but may not be as well known in Salmon’s congressional district.

Whomever wins the GOP primary is the prohibitive favorite in the East Valley race in November.

 

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