Arizona's Rep. Rick Renzi to Retire
Thursday, August 23, 2007; 8:02 PM
WASHINGTON -- Three-term Rep. Rick Renzi, an Arizona Republican facing a federal inquiry into his family's insurance business, said Thursday he will not seek re-election next year. Renzi becomes the fifth GOP House member in recent weeks to announce retirement plans, giving Democrats hopes of possibly picking up seats next year that otherwise would not be in play.
"I will not be seeking re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2008," Renzi said in a brief statement released by the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Neither Renzi nor his top aides had immediately returned repeated calls and e-mails requesting further comment Thursday afternoon.
Leaders of both parties viewed Renzi as seriously damaged politically by the allegations against him, and several Republicans had let it be known they hoped he would step down. They were particularly concerned because Renzi represents a district Democrats have long thought they could win.
FBI agents in April raided a Sonoita, Ariz., business owned by Renzi's wife, Roberta. Law enforcement officials confirmed in October that they were scrutinizing a land swap that netted Renzi's former business partner, friend and campaign donor $4.5 million.
Renzi, 49, has denied all wrongdoing. Still, less than a week after the raid, he stepped down temporarily from all three of his House committee assignments. He also withdrew from a GOP fundraising campaign, which raises money for incumbents in vulnerable seats.
Renzi has also faced scrutiny from the Federal Election Commission, which investigated allegations that he channeled prohibited corporate funds into his 2002 campaign. The FEC eventually dropped the inquiry, but Renzi has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in back taxes while settling the charges.
He also became embroiled in the congressional investigation into the firing of eight U.S. attorneys, including Paul Charlton of Arizona, after his chief of staff in April acknowledged calling Charlton's office to ask about the media reports related to the land deal. Lawmakers have questioned whether some of the prosecutors were fired for being too effective at investigating Republican political corruption.
Renzi represents a vast, rural district narrowly divided between parties, which includes Flagstaff and the Navajo Reservation. Republicans have prevailed in recent elections and probably will have the advantage in the next election.
Still, Democrats have long considered the district competitive. Several potential candidates in both parties have already stepped forward, making it possible that both sides will see potentially divisive primary elections.
Other Republicans stepping down from Congress are former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., and veteran Republican Reps. Deborah Pryce of Ohio and Chip Pickering of Mississippi, who announced last week they won't seek re-election next November. Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Ill., announced the same in late July.
Associated Press writers Jennifer Talhelm in Washington and Jacques Billeaud in Phoenix contributed to this report.