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Arizona AG Mark Brnovich launches Senate challenge to Mark Kelly

Arizona AG Mark Brnovich launches Senate challenge to Mark Kelly
© Arizona Attorney General's Office

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich (R) is jumping into the race against Sen. Mark KellyMark KellyExclusive: Conservative group targets vulnerable Democrats over abortion 'Killibuster': Democratic angst grows as filibuster threatens agenda GOP group launches million ad campaign pressing Kelly on filibuster MORE (D-Ariz.). 

Brnovich, who’s serving out his second term as Arizona’s top law enforcement official, announced his decision on Thursday, vowing to restore what he described as eroding trust in government. 

“Trust is the cornerstone of our republic. But Arizonans have lost it – and for good reason,” Brnovich said in a statement. “We entrust our elected leaders to protect our freedom and they’ve failed us.” 

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“Today, Arizonans lack confidence in the state of the world, the safety of their communities, their vote, their personal freedoms, and definitely in our representatives in Washington. What we have is a real vacuum of leadership.” 

Brnovich’s announcement adds a high-profile name to the fast-growing list of Republicans vying to challenge Kelly in 2022. 

Retired Maj. Gen. Mick McGuire, who led the Arizona National Guard through the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, launched his Senate campaign on Tuesday, becoming the second major contender for the GOP nomination after solar energy entrepreneur Jim Lamon.

But Brnovich enters the race with the benefit of already having won statewide office twice, most recently in 2018 when he defeated Democrat January Contreras by a 4-point margin. 

More recently, however, Brnovich has become the target of former President TrumpDonald TrumpIran claims U.S. to lift all oil sanctions but State Department says 'nothing is agreed' Ivanka Trump, Kushner distance themselves from Trump claims on election: CNN Overnight Defense: Joint Chiefs chairman clashes with GOP on critical race theory | House bill introduced to overhaul military justice system as sexual assault reform builds momentum MORE’s ire for his tepid support of the Arizona state Senate’s ongoing audit of 2020 presidential election results in Maricopa County. 

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With his 2020 loss, Trump became the first Republican presidential candidate to face defeat to a Democrat in Arizona since former Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kansas) in 1996.

More than seven months after his electoral loss to President BidenJoe BidenSchumer vows to advance two-pronged infrastructure plan next month Biden appoints veteran housing, banking regulator as acting FHFA chief Iran claims U.S. to lift all oil sanctions but State Department says 'nothing is agreed' MORE, Trump has continued to insist without evidence that the 2020 election was stolen from him and has touted the audit in Maricopa County as a valiant effort to uncover inaccuracies in the vote count. 

“As massive crime in the 2020 Election is becoming more and more evident and obvious, Brnovich is nowhere to be found,” Trump said in a recent statement. “He is always on television promoting himself, but never mentions the Crime of the Century, that took place during the 2020 Presidential Election, which was Rigged and Stolen.”

But Brnovich spoke with Trump over the weekend, according to sources close to the attorney general, who said that the two had a positive conversation in which they discussed the Arizona Senate race. 

Still, Trump’s previous attacks on Brnovich could prove to be a liability in a Republican primary, given the former president’s heavy influence over GOP voters in Arizona and across the country. There’s also a possibility that Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), one of the biggest boosters in Congress of Trump’s rigged election claims, will jump into the Senate race. 

The eventual winner of the primary will take on Kelly in the 2022 general election. Kelly was elected last year to serve out the remainder of the late Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainBiden nominates Cindy McCain as ambassador to UN food agency Meghan McCain defends 'maverick' Sinema from attacks over filibuster stance GOP group launches million ad campaign pressing Kelly on filibuster MORE’s (R-Ariz.) term in office, handing Democrats control of both of Arizona’s Senate seats for the first time in nearly 70 years.