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Mark Kelly considering Senate bid as Arizona Dems circle McSally

Mark Kelly considering Senate bid as Arizona Dems circle McSally
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Retired astronaut Mark Kelly is taking steps toward a bid against Sen. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyCindy McCain on possible GOP censure: 'I think I'm going to make T-shirts' Arizona state GOP moves to censure Cindy McCain, Jeff Flake Trump renominates Judy Shelton in last-ditch bid to reshape Fed MORE (R-Ariz.) in 2020, identifying potential staffers and strategists and meeting with Democrats around Arizona — though his allies say no final decision has been made.

Democratic sources said Kelly, the husband of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D), has been calling and meeting with top Democratic activists in Arizona since late last year. He has identified a campaign manager, according to two of those sources, and he is working with one of Arizona’s top Democratic strategists as he considers his future.

Kelly has met with Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D) and Sen. Catherine Cortez MastoCatherine Marie Cortez MastoSenate approves waiver for Biden's Pentagon nominee Why are millions still flowing into the presidential inauguration? Transition of power: Greatness meets infamy MORE (D-Nev.), who heads the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, to discuss a possible campaign.

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“Mark appreciates the encouragement that he’s gotten from folks who are looking for someone to represent us in Washington who will address serious problems like low wage growth, climate change, health care,” said Rodd McLeod, the top Arizona strategist serving as Kelly’s spokesman. “He’s going to make a decision, but he has to go through a process of making sure that he considers what running for Senate would be like for him and his family.”

Kelly is not alone in considering a bid against McSally, who was appointed to replace Sen. Jon Kyl (R) at the end of 2018.

The Hill reported Thursday that Schumer and Cortez Masto have also met with Rep. Ruben GallegoRuben GallegoThe best way to handle veterans, active-duty military that participated in Capitol riot 'I saw my life flash before my eyes': An oral history of the Capitol attack Overnight Defense: National Guard boosts DC presence ahead of inauguration | Lawmakers demand probes into troops' role in Capitol riot | Financial disclosures released for Biden Pentagon nominee MORE (D), and a top Democratic source said they had also met with former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods.

“It went great,” Gallego said of the Wednesday night meeting with the two Democratic Senate leaders. “I’m strongly considering it.”

Woods, who served as the late Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainArizona GOP censures top state Republicans McCain, Flake and Ducey Whoopi Goldberg wears 'my vice president' shirt day after inauguration Budowsky: Democracy won, Trump lost, President Biden inaugurated MORE’s (R) first chief of staff in Congress, backed Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D) in the 2018 midterm election, when she beat McSally. Sinema has been introducing Woods around Washington as he considers his own bid for the Senate seat McCain once held. Sinema’s spokespeople did not immediately return requests for comment.

Gallego told The Hill he is “strongly considering” running as well.

Several sources said Gallego has begun interviewing possible staffers and consultants. He is likely to make a final decision in the coming weeks, though those sources said he is unlikely to announce before March 12, when Phoenix holds a runoff to elect the city’s next mayor.

Gallego’s ex-wife, Kate Gallego, is the front-runner to become mayor. The two maintain a strong relationship.

A McSally spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

All three Democratic candidates have their potential drawbacks.

Woods, a former Republican, has come under fire from progressives for comments he made while hosting a radio show a decade ago, including disparaging remarks about Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiBiden attends first church service as president in DC, stops at local bagel shop More hands needed on the nuclear football Sunday shows preview: All eyes on Biden administration to tackle coronavirus MORE (D-Calif.), and for insensitive comments about women. The comments were first reported by the Yellow Sheet Report, an Arizona political tip sheet.

Gallego comes from Arizona’s most heavily Democratic district, based in Phoenix, and he has a voting record to go with it. But voters in Gallego’s district turn out at low levels. Gallego has raised about $1 million in each of his last three campaigns.

Kelly has never run for office before. He is most associated with the push for new gun safety and control measures through Americans for Responsible Solutions, now called Giffords, and some Democrats worry that while gun control is no longer a third rail in American politics, it might not play wxell in a state that is still culturally conservative and has a longstanding gun tradition.

A fourth potential candidate, Rep. Greg StantonGregory (Greg) John StantonHouse Democrat to introduce bill requiring Capitol Police to use body cameras House Judiciary Democrats ask Pence to invoke 25th Amendment to remove Trump Chamber-endorsed Dems struggle on election night MORE (D), is unlikely to run. Stanton, the former Phoenix mayor who won election to replace Sinema in the House in 2018, is keeping his options open for a potential gubernatorial run in 2022.