Arizona Democrat eyeing a bid for Senate

Arizona Democrat eyeing a bid for Senate
© Greg Nash

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) is eyeing a Senate bid, according to a new report, in a move that would give Democrats a top recruit in the race to unseat Republican Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeSenate GOP: Legislation to protect Mueller not needed Trump prepared to hit China with B in annual tariffs: report White House, Democrats reject competing DACA offers MORE.

Phoenix's KPNX-TV reports that sources familiar with Sinema's plans have confirmed that she will run against Flake, but the congresswoman has not officially announced any decision.

Sinema confirmed in a statement shared with The Hill that she's "seriously considering" a bid.

"I’ve heard from many Arizonans encouraging me to run for the United States Senate. It is something I am seriously considering," she said.

"When I make any decisions, Arizonans will be the first to know."

She's been the subject of rumors surrounding a possible bid throughout the year. Reporters had taken her declaration that she is "running for reelection" to mean that she would seek to remain in the House. But Sinema later clarified that she had been referring to her current status instead of swearing off a jump toward the Senate.

If Sinema ultimately goes through with a bid, she instantly becomes the Democratic favorite in what's likely to be one of the toughest Senate races in the country. Both Sinema and Flake are strong fundraisers — she has more than $3.2 million in her campaign account as of July, while Flake has just under $3 million.

Democrats believe they can topple Flake thanks to both the trends in the state as well as Flake's issues with the GOP base.

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump adds to legal team after attacks on Mueller Press: You can’t believe a word he says Feehery: March Madness MORE narrowly lost Arizona in November and Flake has roiled his relationship with the party's base after he released a book that blasted President Trump and questioned the direction the president is taking the Republican Party.

And Democrats have been hammering Flake for his decision to vote for the GOP "skinny" plan to repeal ObamaCare, a bill Arizona's senior senator, John McCainJohn Sidney McCainTrump informally offered Cohn CIA job before changing his mind: report Schiff: I thought more Republicans would speak out against Trump Trump presses GOP to change Senate rules MORE (R), voted against.

Flake's willingness to criticize Trump has driven a wedge between the senator and those close to Trump. This week, GOP mega-donor and Trump ally Robert Mercer gave a super PAC supporting Flake's primary challenger, former state Sen. Kelli Ward, a $300,000 check. And The Hill reported that campaign hands from a pro-Trump super PAC are joining Ward's effort.

But while the White House considers backing a primary challenger, it has not done so yet. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate tees up Yemen vote for Tuesday Senate confirms Trump's border chief House leaves out ObamaCare fix from must-pass funding bill MORE (R-Ky.) and his allies have always mounted strong defenses of their incumbents, so it's unclear how wide the rift could grow.

Sinema would have to vacate her House seat to run for Senate, and the KPNX report says that sources close to Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton (D) say he is gearing up to run for Sinema's seat if she jumps into the Senate race.

The National Republican Congressional Committee needled Sinema in a statement announcing that the House GOP campaign arm believes the seat is a "prime" opportunity for the party. 

Sinema won reelection by a 22-point margin in 2016, but in her first election in 2012 won by a razor-thin margin, giving Republicans hope they can make an open seat more competitive. However, Hillary Clinton won Sinema's district by more than 16 points last year over Trump.

“Yet another House Democrat has vacated a competitive seat and the NRCC is ready to take advantage,” NRCC communications director Matt Gorman said in a statement.

“After Kyrsten Sinema’s shady campaign contributors were exposed earlier this year, it’s clear she lost touch with Arizona’s 9th District. The NRCC not only believes this seat is in play, but is a prime pickup opportunity in 2018.”

This report was updated at 10:46 a.m.