Schumer recruiting top-notch candidate for McCain Senate seat

Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSenate confirms Trump's nominee to lead FDA CEO group pushes Trump, Congress on paid family, medical leave Krystal Ball: Is this how Bernie Sanders will break the establishment? MORE (D-N.Y.) is recruiting Rep. Ruben GallegoRuben GallegoTrump officials defend use of fake university to lure foreign students ICE emerges as stumbling block in government funding talks Lawmakers press for ICE reforms after fake school report MORE (Ariz.), a rising Democratic star in the House, to run for the Arizona Senate seat long held by John McCainJohn Sidney McCainJeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House panel debates articles of impeachment Budowsky: Would John McCain back impeachment? MORE.

Schumer and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) Chairwoman Catherine Cortez MastoCatherine Marie Cortez MastoSenate confirms Trump's 50th circuit judge, despite 'not qualified' rating Democrats challenge South Carolina law requiring voters to disclose Social Security numbers Bicameral group of Democrats introduces bill to protect immigrant laborers 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 McSallyWhite House makes push for paid family leave and child care reform The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - House panel expected to approve impeachment articles Thursday Democrats spend big to put Senate in play MORE (R), who served two terms in the House before losing a hard-fought race for Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeLindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight Kelly, McSally virtually tied in Arizona Senate race: poll The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Nareit — White House cheers Republicans for storming impeachment hearing 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 GardnerSenate gears up for battle over witnesses in impeachment trial Democrats spend big to put Senate in play Republicans consider skipping witnesses in Trump impeachment trial MORE (R-Colo.) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsSenate gears up for battle over witnesses in impeachment trial McConnell: I doubt any GOP senator will vote to impeach Trump Democrats spend big to put Senate in play MORE (R-Maine), who are both running in states that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden hires Clinton, O'Rourke alum as campaign's digital director Trump neck and neck with top 2020 Democrats in Wisconsin: poll Clinton tweets impeachment website, encourages voters to 'see the evidence for themselves' 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.