PHOENIX, March 10 (UPI) -- U.S. Rep. J.D. Hayworth, considered the Republicans' best hope of defeating Arizona Democrat Gov. Janet Napolitano in 2006, has decided to stay in Congress.
Hayworth's decision reshapes the dynamics for the 2006 governor's race and creates a wide-open field of potential challengers, The Arizona Republic said Thursday.
"We must offer a better alternative and when we do, I am confident that Arizonans will respond to our message and give us an opportunity to provide the leadership that a state of our unbounded promise deserves," Hayworth said in a letter to the Arizona GOP chairman and former U.S. Rep. Matt Salmon.
The latest public polls show Napolitano with a comfortable but not insurmountable lead over her most likely Republican rivals.
With Hayworth out, U.S. Rep. Rick Renzi, R-Ariz., and former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods, an ally of GOP U.S. Sen. John McCain, may take a look at the race. Former Republican Gov. Fife Symington, who resigned in 1997 after being convicted of bank and wire fraud -- the conviction was overturned on appeal and he received a presidential pardon -- is also looking seriously at the race.