Her departure leaves open a Tucson-based district that in 2014 hosted one of the closest House races in the country. But it has since trended Democratic and will be redrawn by an independent commission this cycle. Arizona is on track to gain a House seat in reapportionment.
Democratic state Rep. Randy Friese, a trauma surgeon who treated then-Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.) after she was shot in the head in 2011, is likely to run for the seat, according to a source familiar with his thinking. He represents Tucson in the state house and had considered a Senate run in 2018 before deferring to now-Sen. Kyrsten Sinema.
Other possible Democratic candidates include Matt Heinz, the 2016 nominee for the seat who is now on the Pima County Board of Supervisors, and state Reps. Andrés Cano and Daniel Hernández Jr.
On the GOP side, Lea Márquez Peterson, who lost handily to Kirkpatrick in 2018, could run again. And state Rep. T.J. Shope has been in contact with House Republicans about a 2022 bid. He currently represents Pinal County, to the north of the 2nd District. But if a redraw loops in some of his current legislative seat, he could be a contender.
Kirkpatrick had a most unconventional congressional career. She was first elected in 2008 to the sprawling 1st District that spans the northeastern swath of the state and includes southern Phoenix and the Navajo and Hopi nations. She won the seat vacated by Republican Rick Renzi —who was embroiled in scandal and eventually convicted on federal fraud charges — but then lost it during the 2010 GOP wave to Republican Paul Gosar.
The 2012 redistricting opened a new red seat for Gosar and gave Kirkpatrick her comeback. She won it that year and another tight race again in 2014, but departed the House for a second time in 2016 for an ill-fated bid against then-Sen. John McCain, to whom she lost, 54 percent to 41 percent.
In 2018, she ran for the seat she holds now when the then-incumbent, Republican Martha McSally, ran for Senate. Faced with carpetbagging claims from her primary opponent, Kirkpatrick said she moved to Tucson to be closer to her grandchildren. She beat Márquez Peterson by 10 points.
Born on an Apache reserve, Kirkpatrick had a unique connection with rural native communities in the district and fought for more water access, veterans benefits and better housing for the tribes in the district. She grew up speaking the Apache language.
She ran as a proud moderate in early bids, showing off an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association but later became a strong supporter of gun control laws after Giffords, her friend, was shot.
In 2020, Kirkpatrick took a leave of absence from Congress to seek treatment for alcoholism — a move prompted by a fall she suffered in the Washington, D.C. metro area that left her with back and rib injuries.
The 2nd District had been trending away from Republicans. Mitt Romney narrowly carried it in 2012, but Hillary Clinton won it by 4 points in 2016. President Joe Biden carried it by 12 points in 2020.
Still, Torunn Sinclair, a spokesperson for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said Republicans “look forward to turning these seat red again.”
“Ann Kirkpatrick saw the writing on the wall: Democrats’ House majority is doomed,” Sinclair said.
McSally initially won the seat by beating incumbent Rep. Ron Barber, Giffords’ district director who was also injured in the 2011 shooting, by 167 votes.