But she put that to rest Wednesday in suburban Phoenix as she declared "there does come a time to pass the torch of leadership."
"So, after completing this term in office, I will be doing just that," she said.
Brewer has been in the national spotlight on several occasions in her five years in office.
She signed the immigration crackdown law known as Senate Bill 1070 in 2010 and sparred with the Obama administration over health care. Last month, Brewer vetoed legislation that opponents said would have allowed businesses to discriminate against gays and that the business community rallied against.
Brewer also engaged Obama in a testy exchange while greeting him alongside Air Force One in Arizona in 2012, famously wagging her index finger in the president's face amid a dispute over border security.
Brewer made her announcement at the same Glendale school where her children attended and where she received her first taste of politics. She attended a school board meeting in the cafeteria and was inspired to become active in politics, later getting elected to the state House of Representatives, the Maricopa Board of Supervisors and Secretary of State before becoming governor.
She boasted of her accomplishments as governor on issues such as the economy and education and ticked off a list of her remaining priorities, including an overhaul of the state's troubled child welfare system, pushing her budget proposal through the Legislature and getting it to enact more of her economic recovery proposals.
"My job as governor is far from over," Brewer said. "Both my pen and my veto stamp have plenty of ink."
Brewer is known for her conservative views but has also riled her more hard-line base. She surprised many by embracing a key part of Obama's health care overhaul law — an expansion of Medicaid. After a battle with Republicans who control the Legislature, she cobbled together a coalition of Democrats and a handful of Republicans and got the measure adopted. About 300,000 more Arizonans are now eligible to sign up for the free health insurance plan.
Several other Republicans have entered the primary race for governor under the assumption Brewer wouldn't run again. They include Arizona State Treasurer and former Cold Stone Creamery CEO Doug Ducey, Secretary of State Ken Bennett, Mesa Mayor Scott Smith, former GoDaddy legal counsel Christine Jones, state Sen. Al Melvin and former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas.