Jun 28, 2022 - Politics

Matt Salmon drops out of Arizona's GOP gubernatorial primary

Republican gubernatorial candidate Matt Salmon sits at a table during an interview
Matt Salmon's background couldn't match his main opponents' advantages. Photo: Jeremy Duda/Axios

Matt Salmon is dropping out of the Republican primary for governor, saying "numbers are numbers" and that there is no realistic path for him to win the race.

  • "Republican primary voters deserve more than having their votes split on August 2, and so I am leaving this race for the same reason that I entered it: Because it's what's best for the people of Arizona," Salmon said in a press statement.
  • Arizona's election is Aug. 2, and early voting begins next Wednesday.

Why it's important: Other candidates remain on the ballot, but the contest for the GOP nomination is now effectively a two-way race between former Fox 10 anchor Kari Lake and developer Karrin Taylor Robson, who's also served on the Arizona Board of Regents.

  • Political observers have long questioned whether Salmon would stay in the race, and it's unclear whom his departure will benefit more.
  • It's too late for county election officials to pull Salmon's name from the ballot, so he may still siphon off votes that would have otherwise gone to other candidates.

Context: Salmon is a former congressman who served 10 years over two stints in the U.S. House of Representatives.

  • He's also a former GOP gubernatorial nominee who narrowly lost to Democrat Janet Napolitano in 2002, a loss he largely blames on the financial advantage she gained by using the state’s Clean Elections system of public campaign funding instead of relying on private funds.
  • Salmon entered this year's race with a political pedigree that his rivals lacked, but he struggled to match Lake's name ID and Robson's massive financial advantage.

What he's saying: "I will announce next steps in the coming days, but, for now, I want to reiterate my eternal gratitude for all of the Arizonans who have supported me this year," Salmon said.

Meanwhile: Robson praised Salmon for running an "honorable campaign," saying in a press statement that he "is Arizona through and through, and he and his family have served Arizona tirelessly. Matt has been a leading voice in the conservative movement for decades."

  • Lake said Salmon's supporters are some of the most passionate people in the GOP and would've stuck with him to the end. She called him "a decent man" and said "it does speak to his character that he wasn't willing to lead these Patriots on any further."
  • Salmon did not say whether he would endorse anyone in the race.

Flashback: Just last week, Salmon spoke of the race in optimistic terms, telling Axios in an exclusive interview, "I feel we're going to peak at the right time. I feel good about where we're at right now. I'm not intimidated. I'm not concerned. I think we're going to be fine."

Salmon is the third major Republican candidate to drop out of the race, following businessman Steve Gaynor who exited in April and state Treasurer Kimberly Yee who bowed out in January.

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