Major progressive group endorses Martha McSally challenger

Major progressive group endorses Martha McSally challenger
© Greg Nash

Democracy for America (DFA) is throwing its weight behind Mary Matiella, a Democrat running against Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), who is considered a top 2018 Democratic target.

In a release provided first to The Hill, DFA announced it's backing the former assistant secretary of the Army, who faces a crowded primary before she can take on McSally in her Tucson-based district.

DFA, which was founded in 2004 by former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (D), touted Matiella’s “populist progressive vision” for the country, with plans to take on income inequality and supporting ideas like Medicare for all, which was championed by Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersHarvard law professor: Impeachment could worsen political dysfunction, polarization Gun control debate shifts to hardening schools after Texas shooting Bernie Sanders: NRA to blame for lack of action on gun control MORE (I-Vt.) during his insurgent presidential campaign.

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“Not only will Mary Matiella be the first Latina to represent Arizona’s second district, she’s ready to fight to expand Social Security, push for Medicare for All, stop the attacks on immigrants and refugees, and build an economy that works for everyone and not just the elite few," DFA Chairman Jim Dean said in a release.

“Mary Matiella is the progressive choice in Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District race.”

Matiella is one of more than half a dozen Democrats who are either running or have expressed interest in a congressional campaign in Arizona’s 2nd District.

Physician Matt Heinz (D) is running again after an unsuccessful 2016 bid. McSally easily defeated him even while Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonStopping Robert Mueller to protect us all Hillary Clinton hits Trump, pulls out Russian hat during Yale speech Giuliani: Mueller plans to wrap up Trump obstruction probe by Sept. 1 MORE carried the district by nearly 5 points.

Former Democratic Rep. Ann KirkpatrickAnn KirkpatrickGold Star father attacked by Trump steps up role in Dem primaries House Dems highlight promising new candidates Vulnerable House incumbents build up war chests MORE could also make a comeback, forming an exploratory committee as she weighs running in a new district. Kirkpatrick didn't run for reelection to her swing seat in 2016, opting instead to run for Senate, where she fell short to longtime GOP Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainTrump's plan to claw back spending hits wall in Congress Defense bill moves forward with lawmakers thinking about McCain How House Republicans scrambled the Russia probe MORE.

McSally was first elected to Congress in 2014 when Republicans made major gains in the lower chamber. That year, she won a recount by only 167 votes, but in 2016, she won reelection by a double-digit margin.

Even with that easy victory for the Arizona Republican, McSally was named a top target by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), the House Democrats' campaign arm, particularly since she holds a Clinton-won district.

Democrats, who need to flip 24 seats to take back control of the House, will be pressed to win seats like McSally's in order to regain the majority.

Even though Democrats didn't win any special elections this year, they feel emboldened by the current political environment to make major gains in next year’s midterms.

DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Luján (N.M.) recently declared the House in play, specifically pointing to several GOP-leaning districts, including McSally's, where he says data shows that the party has an early advantage.

DFA has already made a number of 2018 endorsements, backing Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), who doesn’t face a competitive reelection race, and also four incumbent senators that include key races like those of Sens. Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinMcConnell: Midterms will be 'very challenging' for GOP Vukmir gets boost with Wisconsin Senate GOP primary endorsement  GOP senate candidate dismisses 'fake outrage' over remarks against Democratic veterans MORE (D-Wis.) and Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownHillicon Valley: Facebook, Google struggle to block terrorist content | Cambridge Analytica declares bankruptcy in US | Company exposed phone location data | Apple starts paying back taxes to Ireland Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by PCMA — Trump hits federally funded clinics with new abortion restrictions Senate Dems call for probe into why Trump has not issued Russia sanctions MORE (D-Ohio).