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 McSallySenate Republicans face tough decision on replacing Ginsburg Democratic senator calls for eliminating filibuster, expanding Supreme Court if GOP fills vacancy What Senate Republicans have said about election-year Supreme Court vacancies 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 MastoDemocratic Senate campaign arm raised nearly M in August VA problems raise worries about mail slowdown, prescriptions Cortez Masto touts mail-in voting in convention speech 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 GallegoHispanic caucus report takes stock of accomplishments with eye toward 2021 Senators call on Pentagon to reinstate funding for Stars and Stripes newspaper Hispanic Caucus campaign chief to mount leadership bid 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 McCainMcSally says current Senate should vote on Trump nominee Say what you will about the presidential candidates, as long as it isn't 'They're too old' The electoral reality that the media ignores 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 PelosiPelosi: Ginsburg successor must uphold commitment to 'equality, opportunity and justice for all' Bipartisan praise pours in after Ginsburg's death Pelosi orders Capitol flags at half-staff to honor Ginsburg 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 StantonUS Chamber of Commerce set to endorse 23 House freshman Democrats Arizona lawmaker warns Pence state may end coronavirus testing due to shortage Sanders poised for big Super Tuesday 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.