PHOENIX -- Arizona Senate Majority Leader John McComish said Monday he won't run for re-election but instead will seek a justice of the peace post in the November election.
McComish is a Republican from the south Phoenix suburb of Ahwatukee in his ninth year in the Legislature. He is outranked in Senate only by President Andy Biggs.
McComish is one of the Senate's more pragmatic Republican members, joining with just a handful of other Republicans to help push through Gov. Jan Brewer's Medicaid expansion plan last year. He's endorsing Republican Rep. Jeff Dial for the District 18 Senate seat. Dial is another Republican backer of Medicaid.
The Medicaid vote angered many conservative Republicans and party activists who vowed to challenge the 14 Republicans in the House and Senate who backed the GOP governor. One Medicaid backer, Sen. Rich Crandall, left the Legislature over the summer to become Wyoming's top education official.
``I knew McComish didn't have the courage to face the voters after what he did in the last legislative session,'' said A.J. LaFaro, chair of the Maricopa County Republican Committee. ``It just demonstrates McComish's lack of character and courage. One down, 12 to go.''
But McComish said he wasn't scared of a primary challenge. Instead, he said in an interview that he believes leaving at the end of his term won't leave moderate Arizonans in the lurch.
``I don't think it will hurt the people of Arizona,'' McComish said. ``I think I'll be replaced by Jeff, who will be as pragmatic as I was. He's shown that, he is proven that in the House, so I don't worry about that tilting of the scales.''
McComish was facing a primary challenge from former Arizona Republican Party Chair Tom Morrissey, but McComish said he didn't decide to leave because of that challenge. He expressed disgust at the party's censure of Senate John McCain this weekend.
Instead, he said the timing was right to move on.
``I've been here for 10 years -- that's a long time,'' said McComish, who is 70. ``If I'm going to run for this office, which I've thinking about for months, I need to do it now because they're four-year terms. And if I don't do it now, four years from now is a long time to be thinking about it.''
McComish will seek the Kyrene Justice Court seat representing Ahwatukee and parts of Tempe and Chandler. The seat is held now by Democrat Elizabeth Rogers.
Justice courts handle low-level criminal matters such as drunken-driving cases as well as civil matters such as evictions.
Besides Dial and McComish, District 18 is represented by Rep. Bob Robson of Chandler, who praised him.
``All of the times I've worked with John, he's been a gentleman and he's been a pleasure to work with,'' Robson said.