Schumer recruiting top-notch candidate for McCain Senate seat

Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerGOP Green New Deal stunt is a great deal for Democrats National emergency declaration — a legal fight Trump is likely to win House Judiciary Dems seek answers over Trump's national emergency declaration MORE (D-N.Y.) is recruiting Rep. Ruben GallegoRuben GallegoDem lawmaker: 'Trump's presidency is the real national emergency' Poll shows McSally, Kelly tied in Arizona Senate race Mark Kelly launches Senate bid in Arizona MORE (Ariz.), a rising Democratic star in the House, to run for the Arizona Senate seat long held by John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGOP senator says Republicans didn't control Senate when they held majority Pence met with silence after mentioning Trump in Munich speech Mark Kelly's campaign raises over M in days after launching Senate bid MORE.

Schumer and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) Chairwoman Catherine Cortez MastoCatherine Marie Cortez MastoSchumer urging ex-congressional candidate Amy McGrath to run against McConnell Mark Kelly launches Senate bid in Arizona Former McCain chief of staff says he will not run for Senate in Arizona in 2020 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.”

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“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 McSallyArmy calls base housing hazards 'unconscionable,' details steps to protect families Poll shows McSally, Kelly tied in Arizona Senate race Mark Kelly's campaign raises over M in days after launching Senate bid MORE (R), who served two terms in the House before losing a hard-fought race for Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeTrump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Live coverage: Trump delivers State of the Union Sasse’s jabs at Trump spark talk of primary challenger 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 Scott GardnerBipartisan Senators reintroduce legislation to slap new sanctions on Russia Dems seeking path to Senate majority zero-in on Sun Belt Lawmakers eager for 5G breakthrough MORE (R-Colo.) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsGOP Green New Deal stunt is a great deal for Democrats On unilateral executive action, Mitch McConnell was right — in 2014 Congress must step up to protect Medicare home health care MORE (R-Maine), who are both running in states that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonRoger Stone shares, quickly deletes Instagram photo of federal judge on his case Barack, Michelle Obama expected to refrain from endorsing in 2020 Dem primary: report Why the national emergency? A second term may be Trump’s only shield from an indictment 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.