Engel Quits Arizona Senate To Focus On Congressional Race

FILE - In this Jan. 31, 2017 file photo Democratic Rep. Kirsten Engel speaks at the Capitol in Phoenix. Now State Senator Engel of Tucson has resigned to focus on her campaign for the U.S. House. Engel said Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021 that Arizona's 2nd Congressional District race will be pivotal to the Democratic Party's efforts to retain the U.S. House majority. (AP Photo/Bob Christie,File)
FILE - In this Jan. 31, 2017 file photo Democratic Rep. Kirsten Engel speaks at the Capitol in Phoenix. Now State Senator Engel of Tucson has resigned to focus on her campaign for the U.S. House. Engel said Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021 that Arizona's 2nd Congressional District race will be pivotal to the Democratic Party's efforts to retain the U.S. House majority. (AP Photo/Bob Christie,File)

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Democratic state Sen. Kirsten Engel of Tucson resigned from the Legislature on Wednesday to focus on her campaign for the U.S. House.

Arizona's 2nd Congressional District race will be pivotal to the Democratic Party's efforts to retain the U.S. House majority, “and this is not an endeavor to be taken lightly," Engel said.

“I know how much work it will take to win this district, and I'm ready to take on that challenge whole-heartedly,” Engel said in a statement.

Incumbent Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick is retiring. The district, which includes parts of Tucson and southeastern Arizona, has been highly competitive in the past, though it's unknown how the boundaries will change through the ongoing redistricting process.

Engel, an environmental law professor at University of Arizona, is in her first term in the state Senate following two terms in the House. She faces Democratic state Rep. Daniel Hernandez, who is best known as the intern credited with saving former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords when she was shot in the head.

State Rep. Randy Friese, another Tucson-area lawmaker, dropped out of the Democratic primary last week saying he needed to focus on his job as a doctor during the pandemic.

The Legislature is not scheduled to be in session until January. The Democratic precinct committeemen in Legislative District 10 will come up with a list of nominees from which the Pima County Board of Supervisors will pick a new senator. Engel's replacement must be a Democrat.

Engel's resignation makes for two Democratic vacancies in the 30-member Senate. The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors is nearing a decision on a replacement for Sen. Tony Navarrete, who quit after he was charged with sex crimes. He denies the allegations.