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Jesse Kelly won't make another Congress run

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CD2 election

Jesse Kelly won't make another Congress run

Tea Party Republican drops out of Az CD2 race

  • Jesse Kelly prior to conceding the race Tuesday night.
    Kevin Asher/TucsonSentinel.comJesse Kelly prior to conceding the race Tuesday night.

Republican Jesse Kelly, fresh off a second Congress-race loss in less than two years, won't seek the 2nd Congressional District seat in the fall, he said in a brief statement Thursday afternoon.

"Looking at the results from Tuesday, we have decided to withdraw from the race for Congress in AZ-02 and to seek other opportunities," Kelly said in the emailed statement.

Kelly won't be making a public appearance to announce his withdrawal, spokesman John Ellinwood said.

Kelly's loss to Democrat Ron Barber in Tuesday's special election by about 13,000 votes marked his second failure to win in Arizona's CD8 in under two years. He lost to Giffords by 4,000 votes in 2010.

Barber edged out Kelly by 6 percent: 103,316 to 90,305 votes in the final count.

Kelly's move leaves former Air Force pilot Martha McSally as the GOP's likely candidate in the fall. Political novice Mark Koskiniemi also will be on the Republican primary ballot.

McSally spokesman Sam Stone said the retired colonel is happy to "not be drawn down into a dogfight of a primary."

"We can start engaging the middle of the road voters who will decide the general election" instead of having to solely court right-wing party activists to make it through a primary.

McSally, though a "Reagan conservative," is "not a bomb-thrower, not a hot head," Stone said.

Neither state Sen. Frank Antenori nor Dave Sitton filed to run in CD2, after trailing in the CD8 primary.

On the Democratic side, the newly elected Barber faces a primary challenge from state Rep. Matt Heinz, who said Wednesday that he's still in the race.

"I wouldn't have done a thing differently," Kelly told supporters in a concession speech as election results were reported Tuesday night.

"We came into this race with a plan ... the voters of Southern Arizona have chosen something different and that's fine," he said.

Kelly gave thanks to his family and friends, and said Tuesday that he would "most likely" run again in the fall.

"We expect to have an announcement about our future plans in the next day or two," Kelly said then.

A short statement posted Wednesday morning on Kelly's Facebook and Twitter pages said just "Thank you all for everything."

Just before 5 p.m. Wednesday, Kelly posted Teddy Roosevelt's "Man in the Arena" passage on Facebook, writing that it was "For all of you who fought along side us (sic)."

"We are blessed by God to live in a country where voters get exactly what they want," Kelly told supporters Tuesday night. "They have spoken here and we respect that."

Ellinwood said he couldn't elaborate on Kelly's plans, saying that the Republican's job with his family's construction business, Don Kelly Construction, is one of the "other opportunities" that Kelly is considering.

Most of the current 8th District will be in the new 2nd District, created through the congressional reapportionment process held every decade.

Kelly's statement

I would like to thank our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, my wife Aubrey, and our supporters for their unwavering commitment to the values that make America great. Looking at the results from Tuesday, we have decided to withdraw from the race for Congress in AZ-02 and to seek other opportunities. I will forever be thankful to our generous supporters and volunteers.

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