PHOENIX – U.S. Rep. Rick Renzi denied Friday that he plans to resign from office amid a federal investigation that saw the FBI raid the Arizona Republican's family business last week.
"For several weeks, I have been the subject of leaked stories, conjecture, and false attacks about a land exchange," Renzi said in a brief statement released by his Washington office. "None of them bear any resemblance to the truth, including the rumor that I am planning on resigning."
Law enforcement officials confirmed in October that they were scrutinizing a land deal that benefited a Renzi friend and business associate who was also a campaign donor. Last week, the FBI raided a Sonoita, Ariz., insurance business owned by Renzi's wife, Roberta.
Renzi temporarily stepped down from the House Intelligence Committee the day of the raid. Tuesday, he took a leave of absence from the House Financial Services and Natural Resources committees.
He also withdrew from a House Republican fundraising campaign, which raises money for incumbents in vulnerable seats.
Renzi has denied all wrongdoing and had said previously he will serve out his term, but speculation persisted late into the week that he would step down.
Amid that, Republicans and Democrats marshaled potential candidates to run for Renzi's 1st Congressional District seat in case Renzi bowed out.
One potential candidate for the 1st District seat said Friday he would run if it opens up but that Renzi told him Thursday he plans to remain in office.
"I'm absolutely considering doing that (running) if it becomes available early or if it's an open seat the next time around, but I'm hoping that things still turn out the best for Rick and I'm not hoping for an early opening," said former state Senate President Ken Bennett, a Prescott Republican. "But if it does occur, I'm certainly considering that."
Bennett, now an executive for a Scottsdale-based company that markets energy-saving products, said he met Renzi in Washington during a preplanned business trip. "He says he has no intention of stepping down, but he also is a little tired of pressure that's building right now," Bennett said.
Bennett noted that Renzi had stated publicly he planned to remain in office. "That's the same indication he gave me."
In an e-mailed statement to The Associated Press late Wednesday, Renzi said he was "honored to have recently been re-elected, and I'm looking forward to continuing to serve the people of the 1st District for the next two years."
Others mentioned as possible candidates include several current state legislators, including Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, a Flagstaff Democrat who on Wednesday filed papers to establish an exploratory committee.
The 1st District includes the communities of Flagstaff, Prescott, Window Rock, Sedona and Casa Grande as well as large swaths of rural northern and eastern Arizona.
Democrats lead the district in voter registration but many of those are conservatives who cross party lines to vote for Republican candidates.