Schumer recruiting top-notch candidate for McCain Senate seat

Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerDemocrats detail new strategy to pressure McConnell on election security bills Democrats detail new strategy to pressure McConnell on election security bills Ex-state senator in North Carolina enters race against Tillis MORE (D-N.Y.) is recruiting Rep. Ruben GallegoRuben GallegoLawsuit accuses anti-immigrant groups of harassing churches that aid migrants Lawsuit accuses anti-immigrant groups of harassing churches that aid migrants Overnight Defense: Latest on USS McCain controversy | Trump says order was 'well-meaning' | Shanahan asks chief to investigate | Democrat demands answers from Navy | Trump touts military strength in Air Force Academy speech MORE (Ariz.), a rising Democratic star in the House, to run for the Arizona Senate seat long held by John McCainJohn Sidney McCainThe DNC's climate problems run deep Trump's health care focus puts GOP on edge Trump's health care focus puts GOP on edge MORE.

Schumer and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) Chairwoman Catherine Cortez MastoCatherine Marie Cortez MastoHouse panel advances bill to create cybersecurity standards for government IT devices House panel advances bill to create cybersecurity standards for government IT devices Democrats ask Fed to probe Trump's Deutsche Bank ties 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 McSallyDemocrats' 2020 Achilles's heel: The Senate Democrats' 2020 Achilles's heel: The Senate Democratic challenger to Susan Collins announces Senate bid MORE (R), who served two terms in the House before losing a hard-fought race for Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeDemocrats needle GOP on standing up to Trump Democrats needle GOP on standing up to Trump Amash gets standing ovation at first town hall after calling for Trump's impeachment 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 GardnerKoch political arm endorses Colorado Sen. Gardner Koch political arm endorses Colorado Sen. Gardner Democrats' 2020 Achilles's heel: The Senate MORE (R-Colo.) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsOvernight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments Overnight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments Senators revive effort to create McCain human rights commission MORE (R-Maine), who are both running in states that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonFive takeaways from Trump's 2020 kickoff rally Five takeaways from Trump's 2020 kickoff rally Trump jokes he'd get 'electric chair' if he deleted even one 'love note' email to Melania 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.