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Gov. Brewer: My veto pen still has ink
02:19 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

Jan Brewer, who took on President Obama over homeland security, will not seek reelection

She became famous for signing the "show me your papers" law

A conservative firebrand, Brewer also has a moderate side on some issues

Pen, veto stamp still have "plenty of ink," Brewer warns

CNN  — 

It’s not clear who might try to succeed Jan Brewer as governor of Arizona next year, but chances are good that whoever it is won’t be quite as flamboyant.

The finger-wagging, gun-loving politician, known as a firebrand who exhibits flashes of moderation, announced on Wednesday that she would “pass the torch of leadership” and not run for reelection. Her term ends in January.

Feisty on immigration

A feisty Republican who rose up through local politics to the state’s highest office, Brewer generated national headlines in recent years for her public opposition to President Barack Obama on border security and immigration reform.

“First entering public service as a mother concerned about the workings of her local school board, Governor Brewer has served with distinction at every level of state and local government over the last three decades,” veteran Republican Sen. John McCain said Wednesday, calling her “a great champion for our state.”

As secretary of state, Brewer automatically ascended to the gubernatorial gig in 2009 when Gov. Janet Napolitano left the job to head the Department of Homeland Security under Obama. Brewer then easily won election to a full term in 2010.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer won’t seek reelection

Just over a year into her tenure, she rose to national prominence by signing SB1070 into law. The strict immigration measure, also known as the “show me your papers” act, allowed law enforcement to ask people for legal documents.

“Show me your papers” law

Critics complained the measure would lead to racial profiling, and the U.S. Supreme Court eventually struck down some provisions of it but left intact the controversial section allowing police to check immigration status while enforcing other laws.

The issue gained Brewer the reputation of conservative firebrand, and she enhanced it in 2012 when she famously wagged her finger at Obama during a face-to-face encounter on an airport runway when he visited Arizona.

In her bid for reelection that year, she won the endorsement of the National Rifle Association even though her primary opponent sat on the organization’s board of directors.

The NRA gave Brewer an A+ rating and under her leadership, Arizona became one of three states to allow people to carry concealed weapons without a permit. In addition, people can take concealed weapons into restaurants or bars with a permit if no alcohol is consumed.

Inside Politics: Is Brewer part of a GOP evolution?

However, her conservative credentials took a hit in 2013 when she decided Arizona would participate in the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

A moderate side

Some other conservative governors chose for their states to opt out instead of accepting federal money to pay for the expansion, but Brewer called it a “moral” obligation to provide health care for the poor and uninsured.

In February, Brewer vetoed a controversial state bill that would have allowed business owners asserting their religious beliefs to deny service to gay and lesbian customers.

If she had accepted the measure, Arizona could have faced litigation and a boycott, potentially harming Arizona’s economy and tourism industry as well as the 2015 Super Bowl to be played there.

Protesters celebrate Ariz. governor’s veto

Brewer cited the business community’s opposition to the bill in announcing her veto.

Arizona law dictates that a governor can’t run for more than two consecutive terms, and her time in office before she was elected in 2010 would count as a full four-year term.

Differing opinions exist on whether Brewer could be eligible, but she made clear Wednesday she would step down, vowing to “work until my final hours completing the people’s business.”

“Both my pen and my veto stamp have plenty of ink,” she said.

CNN’s Leigh Ann Caldwell, Dana Bash, Miguel Marquez and Quand Thomas contributed to this report.