Flake will tie Ralph Cameron for the shortest tenure in the chamber in state history

Jeff Flake’s surprise announcement on Tuesday that he will not run for reelection in 2018 means he is the first of the 11 Arizona U.S. Senators since statehood never to run for a second term.

Arizona has a history of long-serving members of the nation’s upper legislative chamber.

Democrats Carl Hayden (1927-1969) and Henry Ashurst (1912-1941) served seven and five terms respectively while Dennis DeConcini (1977-1995) served three and ‘Mac’ McFarland (1941-1953) and Marcus Smith (1912-1921) lasted two terms each.

On the Republican side, John McCain (1987-present) is in his sixth term, Barry Goldwater (1953-1965; 1969-1987) served five interrupted terms, Jon Kyl (1995-2013) served three, Paul Fannin (1965-1977) two, and Ralph Cameron (1921-1927) just one.

Flake will join Cameron as the only one-term senators in the history of the Grand Canyon State.

Cameron did seek reelection in 1926, but was defeated by Hayden, an eight-term U.S. Representative, by 16.7 points that November.

Flake becomes the sixth Arizona U.S. Senator to exit the chamber via retirement joining Hayden, Fannin, Goldwater (in 1986), DeConcini, and Kyl. [Goldwater also technically retired from the U.S. Senate in 1964 when he ran for the presidency].

Meanwhile, Ashurst lost his party’s nomination in 1940 and Smith (1920), Cameron (1926), and McFarland (1952) were all defeated in the general election.

Arizona is one of only two states never to have a U.S. Senator die in office, along with neighboring Utah.

Flake bowed out in advance of what was shaping up to be an uphill battle to win his party’s nomination next year, with former state senator and 2016 GOP candidate Kelli Ward leading him by double digits in all public polling conducted since the summer.

Fun fact: while Jon Kyl does not have the shortest tenure in state history, he does have the shortest name in the history of the U.S. Senate.

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  1. nikoli orr on October 29, 2017 at 6:03 pm

    “…since statehood ‘never’ to run for a second term” Since, unlike then-R FL Governor Charlie Crist in 2009-10, he believes it is beneath him to exercise the independent or minor party (e.g. Libertarian) option, Flake is indeed poised to become the first AZ US senator ever not to stand for a second CONSECUTIVE six-year term. And while the state has never had a vacancy (no resignation or expulsion), it does have a (proportionately) large number of former occupants making return bids (Goldwater in 1968; McFarland in 1958 against Goldwater; and Cameron in both 1928 and 1932, both times with Herbert Hoover as his ticketmate). Moreover, unlike CT “Independent Democrat” Joe Lieberman in ’06, Flake evidently realised that even had he survived a presumably brutal intraparty donnybrook against “Chemtrails Kelli” Ward, his chances of prevailing in the general seemed no higher than 50%. A temporary, tactical departure from the political scene until the (Trumpian) “spell” is broken?

  2. Cecil Crusher on March 6, 2024 at 11:33 am

    Hours ago, Independent Senator K Sinema made official her intention not to stand for a second six-year term (something many observers have long suspected since her change of partisan affiliation and subsequent subpar fundraising).

    A state that once had been renowned for long-serving senators now seems to generate short-timers – Flake; Kyl, in his second, caretaker stint; McSally; Sinema.

    • Dr Eric J Ostermeier on March 7, 2024 at 9:05 am

      I wonder if we’ll ever see US Senate seat turnover again like that of KY in the mid-late 1940s or NC and NE in the early 1950s.

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