Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich enters US Senate race

FILE - In this Jan.7, 2020 file photo Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich speaks at a news conference in Phoenix. Brnovich is running for the U.S. Senate. Brnovich's announcement on Thursday, June 10, 2021, makes him the third major candidate to seek the Republican nomination to take on Democrat Mark Kelly. (AP Photo/Bob Christie,File)

PHOENIX — Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich announced Thursday he’s running for U.S. Senate, becoming the third major candidate seeking the Republican nomination to take on Democrat Mark Kelly.

Brnovich, who is in his second term as the state’s top law-enforcement officer, is the best-known GOP candidate and the only one with political experience.

In a video announcement, Brnovich described himself as the son of immigrants who fled communism in Yugoslavia. He says he used his post as attorney general to take on “crony capitalists” and government overreach, while promoting religious liberty, border security and election integrity.

“We need an Arizona conservative in Washington who stands up for us and our values,” Brnovich said in the video. “Someone who’s been tested. Someone who won’t go run and hide at the first sign of trouble.”

Brnovich has drawn the ire of former President Donald Trump, which could become a major liability in a crowded GOP primary. Trump has repeatedly called Brnovich “lackluster” and said he’s “nowhere to be found” in support of the audit of Maricopa County election results by state Senate Republicans.

Trump and many of his most loyal supporters have latched onto discredited allegations of widespread election fraud in Arizona and elsewhere, which they claim cost him his re-election. Brnovich, Gov. Doug Ducey and Secretary of State Katie Hobbs certified Arizona’s election results showing a narrow victory for Democrat Joe Biden.

“Our Country needs Attorney General Mark Brnovich, who has done little so far on Voter Integrity and the 2020 Presidential Election Scam, to step it up,” Trump wrote in a statement earlier this month.

Brnovich downplayed the presidential feud, saying he can’t worry about what anyone else does.

“I want this race to be about me, what I believe in and what I stand for,” Brnovich said in a brief interview. “The media focuses so much on the things that no one can control. They don’t want to focus on what I stand for, what I believe and the record I have.”

Solar energy entrepreneur Jim Lamon and retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Michael “Mick” McGuire, both political newcomers, have also announced plans to seek the GOP nomination. U.S. Rep. Andy Biggs has said he’s considering a run but has not announced a decision. Blake Masters, who has worked closely with billionaire Peter Thiel, also may run.

Kelly, a retired astronaut, won a special election last year to finish the late John McCain’s Senate term. He is now running for a full six-year term. The race is one of the most high-profile contests in 2022 and will help determine which party controls the U.S. Senate.

As attorney general, Brnovich has picked a number of high-profile fights, including suing the Arizona Board of Regents — which is typically his client — over plans to build a hotel at Arizona State University. He’s also asked the U.S. Supreme Court to invalidate part of the Voting Rights Act in a high-stakes case filed by the Democratic National Committee; a decision is expected in the coming weeks.

Democrats immediately signaled that they would highlight his support for a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the Affordable Care Act, the health care law known as “Obamacare.” Democrats effectively used opposition to the law against Republicans in 2018 and 2020.

Before he was elected attorney general in 2014, Brnovich was a federal prosecutor and head of the state Gaming Department, which regulates gambling.