Fife Symington Considering Run For Arizona Senate Seat

By Holliday Moore
Published: Thursday, October 4, 2018 - 2:14pm

Fife Symington, Arizona's 19th governor, is considering re-entering politics. The once pardoned politician could go head to head with a former foe in 2020 over John McCain's open U.S. Senate seat.

Sixteen years after re-inventing himself and turning his focus on opening the Arizona Culinary Institute, Symington is intrigued over the idea of running again for office, but said he's also torn.

"It's a professional program," he said about the Scottsdale school where some 150 people graduate each year. "It's just been a real joy in my life. So, it would be hard to make the change and leave that behind."

In 1997, during his second term as governor, Symington stepped down under federal indictment charges surrounding his commercial real estate business.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals threw out the charges after it found his civil rights were violated.

"I never should have resigned because the whole thing got straightened out," he reflected, but, you know once you step out of the office you can't recover it even if you win your case."

President Bill Clinton later pardoned him preventing the federal government from relaunching an investigation, which Symington believed was a "political hit job."

"I'm proud of my record," he said. "I'm battle hardened. You can say whatever you want about me, it doesn't disturb me. I'm used to that."

Having been publicly tried, he believes he now has better perspective if he does run.

"I've been on the receiving end of the brute force of Federal prosecutorial power and it's abuse," he said, "the experience was very difficult, but I won, but at great cost."

Looking back, he said he was deeply aware of what he called "unfettered power of the federal judicial system."

"It probably made me a much better public servant than when I was governor of Arizona," he said.

He said if he ultimately does decides to run, "I think I'll do just fine. Elections are about your ideas for the future, where you want to see the country go. It's not settled on old issues, especially as distant as those."

Symington said he began mulling over a possible run when he learned his friend and sometimes adversary former Attorney General Grant Woods is also thinking about running for McCain's seat as a Democrat.

"I respect Grant, and we've been on good terms and I think he would be the perfect person to run against," but he said the former AG and McCain's first chief of state is now backing Democrat Kyrsten Sinema in her bid against Republican Martha McSally for the seat U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake is vacating in December.

"We've got to figure out which party he's going to be in before an election is going to take shape," said Symington.

That process of discernment he predicted will take another six months.

Just like a trained chef, he related it back to cooking.

"You want to skim away the milk from the butter fat," and clarify. In this case, "clarify the race."