Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will not seek the seat being vacated by Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), a decision that increases the uncertainty in a prospective Democratic field in which no clear front-runner has emerged. The news was first reported by the AP.
"Secretary Napolitano told senior Democratic Party leaders earlier this week that she will not seek Arizona's open U.S. Senate seat in 2012," DHS spokesperson Sean Smith said in a statement issued Friday. "She cares deeply about Arizona, but the Secretary intends to continue doing the job that the President asked her to do -- protecting the American people from terrorism and other threats to our country. She's focused on continuing to strengthen our counter-terrorism initiatives, border security, immigration enforcement, transportation and cyber security, and disaster preparedness."
Former state Democratic Party chair Jim Pederson, another prominent Democrat whose name had been mentioned as a possible candidate, also said earlier this week that he will not run.
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' (D) name has been mentioned as a possible candidate. Giffords had talked about running before a shooting in Tucson earlier this year nearly took her life. But uncertainty surrounds her recovery and the question of whether she would even want to run remains up in the air.
Other Democratic names that have been mentioned include Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke, and Rep. Ed Pastor.
The only officially announced candidate in the race is Rep. Jeff Flake (R), who made his bid official earlier this week.