Arizona Rep. Randy Friese ends congressional bid, says he can't quit medicine during COVID-19 pandemic

Ronald J. Hansen
Arizona Republic
Rep. Randy Friese, D-Tucson, raises his hand to speak during debate of HB 2898, a K-12 education bill, during the House Appropriations Committee hearing  at the Arizona Capitol in Phoenix on May 25, 2021.

Democrat Randy Friese has abruptly ended his congressional bid for a seat in the Tucson area, citing a need to tend to his duties as a doctor amid the surge in COVID-19.

Friese, a member of the state House of Representatives, was the leading fundraiser among three fellow members of the Legislature who were vying for their party's nomination to replace the retiring Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz.

Friese is a trauma surgeon who gained prominence in 2011 when he was among the team of doctors who treated then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., after she was shot in the head in a massacre near Tucson that killed six and wounded a dozen others.

"As the Delta variant surges across our region, it has become an increasing challenge to fulfill my obligations to the hospital, my patients, and the campaign amidst a run for Congress," Friese said in a statement. "I’ve always loved medicine and patient care, and I’ve come to the realization that I’m not ready to give that up."

State Sen. Kirsten Engel, D-Tucson, who is running for the Democratic nomination, called Friese a "dedicated public servant and colleague to work with in the state Legislature."

"I’m sure this was a difficult decision to make, but I know he will continue to serve his community as a physician, and I wish him the best with his future endeavors," she said in a tweet.

State Rep. Daniel Hernandez, D-Tucson, who is also in the congressional race, did not immediately publicly respond to Friese's decision. 

Kirkpatrick's announced retirement earlier this year created a rare opening for a congressional seat, and comes as all nine of Arizona's congressional districts are being redrawn, which could significantly alter their political makeup.  

The 2nd Congressional District as it is currently drawn has evolved from one of the most competitive in the country to a safely Democratic seat.

But there are sizable pockets of conservative voting areas adjacent to the 2nd District, which could be pulled into a new district.

Juan Ciscomani, a senior adviser to Gov. Doug Ducey, is running for the Republican nomination in the race.

Reach the reporter Ronald J. Hansen at ronald.hansen@arizonarepublic.com or 602-444-4493. Follow him on Twitter @ronaldjhansen.

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