Schumer recruiting top-notch candidate for McCain Senate seat

Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerFixing Congress requires fixing how it legislates Beware the tea party of the left Bottom line MORE (D-N.Y.) is recruiting Rep. Ruben GallegoRuben GallegoSinema's no Manchin, no McCain and no maverick Sinema trails potential primary challengers in progressive poll Hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops still unvaccinated ahead of first vaccine deadline: report MORE (Ariz.), a rising Democratic star in the House, to run for the Arizona Senate seat long held by John McCainJohn Sidney McCainOur military shouldn't be held hostage to 'water politics' Meghan McCain blames 'toxic' hostility for 'The View' exit Beware the tea party of the left MORE.

Schumer and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) Chairwoman Catherine Cortez MastoCatherine Marie Cortez MastoHarry Reid calls on Democrats to plow forward on immigration Democratic incumbents bolster fundraising advantage in key Senate races Warnock raises .5 million in third quarter MORE (Nev.) met with Gallego at the DSCC headquarters Wednesday evening about running for the seat. 

“It went great,” Gallego said of the meeting. “I’m strongly considering it.”

ADVERTISEMENT

“I’m basically making the final decision and we’ll have that in the next couple weeks,” he added. 

Gallego, who was elected to his third House term in November, is the son of Hispanic immigrants, a Harvard graduate, and a Marine combat veteran who served in Iraq.

He serves as senior whip for the Democratic caucus, is the second vice chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and vice chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Schumer and Cortez Masto have also met recently with retired astronaut-turned-gun control advocate Mark Kelly and former Republican state attorney general Grant Woods, who are both mulling potential Senate bids, according to a DSCC aide.

Kelly, who once flew space shuttle missions for NASA, is the target of a draft campaign by 314 Action, a group trying to elect candidates with science, technology, engineering and math backgrounds to Congress. 

The group is running a six-figure digital advertising campaign in an attempt to persuade Kelly to run. 

Woods, who served as Arizona state attorney general in the 1990s, was McCain’s first congressional chief of staff in the 1990s. 

He criticized the Republican Party in a September op-ed for azcentral.com for having abandoned its “tethering philosophy.”

He says he would run as a Democrat if he can’t do so as an independent.

The seat that McCain held for more than 30 years is currently occupied by Sen. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyKelly raises million in third quarter Ruben Gallego is left's favorite to take on Sinema Texas not hiring private contractor for election audit MORE (R), who served two terms in the House before losing a hard-fought race for Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeFlake donating unused campaign funds to Arizona nonprofit focused on elections: report Biden nominates former Sen. Tom Udall as New Zealand ambassador Biden to nominate Jane Hartley as UK ambassador: report MORE’s (R) Senate seat to Kyrsten Sinema (D).

She was picked in December to serve the remainder of McCain's term. 

Democrats see McSally as one of their top targets in 2020, along with Sens. Cory GardnerCory GardnerColorado remap plan creates new competitive district Protecting the outdoors: Three cheers for America's best idea Ex-Sen. Cory Gardner joins lobbying firm MORE (R-Colo.) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsEmanuel to take hot seat in Senate confirmation hearing Overnight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — FDA moves to sell hearing aids over-the-counter Rachel Levine sworn in as first openly transgender four-star officer in health corps MORE (R-Maine), who are both running in states that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump defends indicted GOP congressman GOP lawmaker says he expects to be indicted over FBI investigation Why it's time for conservatives to accept the 2020 election results and move on MORE won in 2016.

Trump won Arizona in 2016 by 3.5 points but Sinema was able to defeat McSally by just over 2 points in November. 

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) first appointed former Sen. Jon Kyl (R) to McCain's seat after McCain's death in August. Kyl stepped down, as planned, in December, following the midterms.

Democrats think McSally will be vulnerable in 2020, a presidential election year when Democratic turnout is usually higher, because of her embrace of Trump in the 2018 Senate GOP primary. 

Mike Noble, an Arizona-based GOP pollster, told Reuters in August that embracing Trump in the primary “put McSally in a precarious position” but noted that it was necessary for her to advance to the general election.

Schumer played a key role in recruiting Sinema to run for the Senate in the 2018 cycle. He called her in August of 2017 to pledge his support over other primary candidates if she decided to run against Flake, who Democrats saw as vulnerable.

Flake announced his retirement in October of that year, denouncing the direction of the GOP under Trump.

At this point, however, it does not appear that Schumer is ready to clear the Arizona primary field for a favored pick as he is meeting with several candidates.

--Updated at 12:49 p.m.