The challenges and future of transportation in Arizona, including the expanded light rail and Interstate 11 between Phoenix and Las Vegas.
Congressman Ed Pastor Announces His Retirement
Arizona’s longest serving member of Congress is retiring. Congressman Ed Pastor made the announcement on Thursday.
Pastor showed reporters his American Airlines’ frequent flier card before making an official statement. It held 6 million miles, mostly logged between Washington, D.C. and Arizona in a 23-year career.
Pastor said he was proud to be Arizona’s first Mexican-American congressman, but at 70-years-old, it is time for something else.
"I saw Jay Leno leave, and I said, 'Jay if you can leave after 20 years on a high note, hey why not Pastor?'" Pastor said.
Ed Pastor took office in 1991 after winning a special election to replace Mo Udall who had resigned due to health problems. He is now the senior member of Arizona’s congressional delegation.
Pastor is a member of the House Appropriations Committee. He has helped secure federal funding for the Valley’s light rail system. He has also supported of revitalization projects along the Salt River where it runs through the Valley. Pastor served as Maricopa county supervisor for 15 years before he ran for Congress.
His district is considered a safe democratic district, covering much of the Valley. Pastor’s Phoenix district is mostly Latino and controlled by Democrats, but the August primary will be contested.
Meanwhile, jockeying for his seat has already started. A handful of Democratic candidates have said they would run in the primary for District 7. The field of candidates who want to replace him is already filling out with state Reps. Ruben Gallego and Steven Gallardo as well as Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox all announcing their candidacies Thursday afternoon.
His retirement has triggered a rush of candidates who want to replace him, and Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said whoever that person is, he will have some big shoes to fill. Stanton said Pastor supported projects outside his congressional district.
"When they opened up the new line of light rail in Mesa, when they did the beginning of construction, you know who they invited? Ed Pastor!" said Stanton. "It’s not even his district, but he went to bat for this entire region, in order to make sure the necessary resources were brought to this region to advance transportation."
Stanton said Pastor’s fingerprints are on many transportation and human services projects across the Valley. The mayor said he is concerned that the loss of Pastor’s voice in D.C. could hurt the region’s access to federal funds for Valley projects.
There is one politician that Ed Pastor will not endorse to replace him, his daughter. The congressman said newly elected Phoenix City Councilwoman Laura Pastor should not be one of them.
“She has a four-year term. She has that responsibility. My assumption today is that she will carry out her responsibility and will finish her term, as she should," said Ed Pastor.
In a statement, Laura Pastor said she is considering all her options and discussing the opportunity with her family. Voters sent her father to Washington for 11 terms in Congress.
Updated 2/27/14 5:16 p.m.
KJZZ's Al Macias and Peter O'Dowd contributed to this report.