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Chuck Gray pulls out of congressional race

Amanda Lee Myers

Former state Sen. Chuck Gray on Tuesday withdrew from the race for the congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Jeff Flake and threw his support behind another candidate.

Gray blamed the recently drawn congressional district lines for his withdrawal even though they are not finalized, saying that the new maps would split the conservative vote in the eastern suburban Phoenix area.

"The district lines are now drawn and have pitted three good men against each other," Gray said in a statement to supporters. "And while I was the first to enter the race, I cannot permit the conservative vote in the East Valley to be split in a way that allows a less conservative voice to prevail."

Gray is now supporting former U.S. Rep. Matt Salmon for the seat, which is being vacated by Flake so he can run for the Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Jon Kyl.

Gray said that Salmon most closely reflects his conservative values and voting records.

"I encourage my supporters to embrace Matt Salmon as they have embraced me," Gray said. "I must set aside my own desire to serve and put the future of this country first. I hope my supporters will do the same. For the good of the nation, I seek to unite the conservative vote."

Kirk Adams, a former state legislator who resigned in April, also is running for the congressional seat.

Arizona's redistricting commission adopted tentative congressional and legislative district maps earlier this month. The maps are pending analysis by the panel's legal counsel and voting-rights consultants, and the commission will have to vote on the maps again.

The commission's lawyers and staff then must prepare the state's submission to the Department of Justice for its approval as mandated under the federal Voting Rights Act.

Among the commission's major tweaks to the congressional map included reuniting Fountain Hills with Scottsdale in the proposed 6th District; making Cochise County whole in the proposed 2nd District, along with the eastern portion of metropolitan Tucson; and moving western Maricopa County to the rural 4th District, leaving the proposed 8th District more compact and suburban.

Arizona voters created the five-member commission in 2000 to take the once-a-decade mapping process out of the hands of the Legislature and the governor. Supporters said the change would eliminate lawmakers' self-interest as motivations for where lines are drawn and spur the creation of competitive districts.

Redistricting is important _ and often controversial _ because how districts are drawn influences whether a party and its candidates have realistic shots at winning races in particular districts.

The Associated Press