Arizona Republican gubernatorial hopeful Matt Salmon drops out of race

The pool of people vying to be the next governor of Arizona shrunk on June 28.

In a statement, former Congressman Matt Salmon (R) announced that he is ending his campaign for governor.

"Unfortunately, numbers are numbers, and it has become clear to me that the path to a first-place victory is no longer a realistic possibility," read a portion of a statement released by officials with the campaign.

In the statement, Salmon took time to thank his staff and volunteers.

"I am so proud of everything that we have been able to accomplish together over the past year. I've been blessed with the best staff members, volunteers, and activists in Arizona, and I will forever be grateful for the tireless work and heart-felt passion that they gave to this campaign. Our ideas changed this race for the better – there is no doubt about that," a portion of the statement read.

Salmon said he will announce his next steps in "the coming days." We asked of Salmon is going to endorse a candidate, but we have yet to hear back from officials.

This is not Salmon's first campaign for governor. In 2002, he was the GOP nominee for governor, but was defeated in the November election by Democrat Janet Napolitano.

Salmon served in the Arizona Legislature before winning three terms in Congress in the 1990s and leaving office to honor his pledge to serve only three terms. After his loss in the governor’s race, he worked as a lobbyist and then served two more terms in Congress from 2013 through 2016. He had been working for Arizona State University when he announced his intent to run again for governor.

Political analysts ‘puzzled’ by decision

Salmon's decision to exit the race, with just over a month left until the primary election, has left some political analysts puzzled.

"This is a significant turn of events in the Republican primary to nominate a candidate for Governor. A significant turn," said Stan Barnes, President of Copper State Consulting Group.

Barnes said Salmon's decision will have a significant impact.

"Matt Salmon had a lot of supporters," said Barnes. "He just didn’t have as many as the other two candidates."

Ballots have already been printed and are ready to be mailed out, so Salmon's name will still appear on the ballot. However, a vote for Salmon won't count.

"If [voters] vote for Matt Salmon, it’s as good as a throwaway vote. You might as well write in Mickey Mouse because he’s really not on the ballot, even though he is on the ballot," said Barnes.

Focus now on two GOP frontrunners

With the withdrawal of Salmon, there are now seven GOP candidates for governor, including write-in candidates, according to the Arizona Secretary of State's Office. They include Patrick Finerd (write-in), Kari Lake, Scott Neely, Carlos Roldan (write-in), Alex Schatz (write-in), Karrin Taylor Robson, and Paola "Z" Tulliani-Zen.

On his campaign website, Republican Steve Gaynor announced on April 28 that he has suspended his campaign for governor.

There are two Democratic Party hopefuls for Governor: Katie Hobbs and Marco Lopez. Aaron Lieberman announced the suspension of his campaign on May 27.

There is one Libertarian Party candidate for governor: Barry Hess.

The four major GOP candidates for Governor will take part in a televised debate on June 29. Analysts say Lake and Taylor Robson, the two frontrunners, will be the ones to watch, as they persuade Salmon's supporters.

"I think it’s going to be very interesting. It’s now really Kari vs Karrin, and those two, no doubt, will trade political blows, and each jockey to be the number one," said Barnes. "I think they’re both probably jockeying for Salmon endorsement. I expect Matt salmon will endorse one of them sooner than later. I also expect that person will probably be Karrin Taylor Robson, because it’s just the nature of politics."

The 2022 Primary Election is set to take place on August 2, according to the Secretary of State's website. The general election is on Nov. 8. Term limits bar current Republican Gov. Doug Ducey from running again in 2022.

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