Schumer recruiting top-notch candidate for McCain Senate seat

Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDem legal analyst says media 'overplayed' hand in Mueller coverage Former FBI official praises Barr for 'professional' press conference Pelosi: Barr press briefing a 'staggering partisan effort' MORE (D-N.Y.) is recruiting Rep. Ruben GallegoRuben GallegoGallego tapped as national campaign chairman for Swalwell presidential bid Hispanic Caucus asks for meeting with top immigration official Mark Kelly raises eye-popping million in Arizona Senate race MORE (Ariz.), a rising Democratic star in the House, to run for the Arizona Senate seat long held by John McCainJohn Sidney McCainTrump gives nod to vulnerable GOP Sen. McSally with bill signing Democrats need a 'celebrity' candidate — and it's not Biden or Sanders Juan Williams: The high price of working for Trump MORE.

Schumer and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) Chairwoman Catherine Cortez MastoCatherine Marie Cortez MastoLife in the minority at the FCC Dem senators call for Trump to restore release for pregnant migrants Jury rejects Harry Reid lawsuit against fitness band maker 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 McSallyTrump gives nod to vulnerable GOP Sen. McSally with bill signing Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020 Gallego tapped as national campaign chairman for Swalwell presidential bid MORE (R), who served two terms in the House before losing a hard-fought race for Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakePollster says Trump unlikely to face 'significant' primary challenge Trump gives nod to vulnerable GOP Sen. McSally with bill signing Flake opens up about threats against him and his family 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 GardnerCain says he 'won't run away from criticism' in push for Fed seat Graham says he's 'not interested' in Mueller testifying Cain says he won't back down, wants to be nominated to Fed MORE (R-Colo.) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report — Mueller aftermath: What will House Dems do now? Collins backs having Mueller testify Graham says he's 'not interested' in Mueller testifying MORE (R-Maine), who are both running in states that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGrassroots America shows the people support Donald Trump Ex-FBI official: 'Links and coordination' with Russia happen everyday Ex-FBI agent: Americans should be 'disgusted' by Russian interference in Mueller report 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.