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Former McCain chief of staff says he will not run for Senate in Arizona in 2020

Former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods (D) announced on Friday that he will not run for the Democratic nomination to challenge Sen. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyGabby Giffords congratulates Mark Kelly with throwback photo of her own swearing-in Mark Kelly sworn in to Senate seat Sen.-elect Mark Kelly visits John McCain's grave ahead of swearing-in MORE (R-Ariz.) in 2020.

Woods, who served as the late Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainSmearing presidential election will turn off young voters and undermine democracy Choking — not cheating — was Trump's undoing Gabby Giffords congratulates Mark Kelly with throwback photo of her own swearing-in MORE’s (R) first chief of staff in Congress, recently switched his party affiliation and had been seriously considering a Senate run as a Democrat.

Woods made the announcement during a Friday interview with local radio station KTAR News 92.3, saying he met with media consultants and pollsters about his chances to defeat McSally.

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But he said that given Arizona’s late August primary, he didn’t want to fight against other Democrats in what is expected to be a contested primary.

“I think I can beat her and I think I am the person to beat her. However ... it’s pretty clear there would be a Democratic primary if I run,” Woods told KTAR on Friday. “I’m not interested in running the next 18 months against Democrats.”

Woods had backed Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D), who went on to defeat McSally in the 2018 midterm election.

Sinema had been introducing Woods in Washington, D.C., and previously met with Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerBipartisan governors call on Congress to pass coronavirus relief package Pelosi, Schumer endorse 8 billion plan as basis for stimulus talks Funding bill hits snag as shutdown deadline looms MORE (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Catherine Cortez MastoCatherine Marie Cortez MastoSenate committee approves nominations of three FEC commissioners Hispanic leaders coalesce in support of Lujan Grisham as HHS secretary Favorites emerge as Latino leaders press Biden to appoint 5 Hispanics to Cabinet MORE (D-Nev.), who heads the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC).

But as a former Republican, Woods had frustrated some progressives for past comments on a radio show that were critical of now-Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money: Unemployment gains lower than expected | Jobs report lights fire under coronavirus relief talks Hillicon Valley: Senate Intelligence Committee leaders warn of Chinese threats to national security | Biden says China must play by 'international norms' | House Democrats use Markup app for leadership contest voting Bipartisan governors call on Congress to pass coronavirus relief package MORE (D-Calif.), according to Yellow Sheet Report, an Arizona political tip sheet.

Woods said he expected other Democrats to run to the left of him, noting that he’s “not too big on either party.”

Instead, Woods said he plans to get involved in the 2020 presidential race to defeat President TrumpDonald John TrumpAppeals court OKs White House diverting military funding to border wall construction Pentagon: Tentative meeting between spy agencies, Biden transition set for early next week Conservative policy director calls Section 230 repeal an 'existential threat' for tech MORE. He said he will endorse a candidate and “be as involved as they’ll let me be.”

With Woods out of the running, retired astronaut Mark Kelly and Rep. Ruben GallegoRuben GallegoCompromise defense bill offers rebuke of Trump's Germany drawdown Gallego tapped to run Hispanic Caucus's campaign arm Congress: Support the ARC Act to prevent amputations MORE (D-Ariz.) are seen as the top Senate challengers for Democrats. Both have also met with Schumer and Cortez Masto.

Arizona is high on Democrats’ priority list, as they seek to take back the Senate in 2020. Republicans hold a 53-seat Senate majority.

McSally was appointed to fill McCain’s seat until the 2020 special election after it had been initially held by former Sen. Jon Kyl (R).

Whoever wins the seat in 2020 will serve out the remainder of McCain's term, which expires in 2022.