Bruce Wheeler

Bruce Wheeler

Bruce Wheeler was ready to retire from Arizona politics after years in the Legislature and on the Tucson City Council.

But it was one person who changed the 68-year-old’s mind last year — Donald J. Trump.

“That is a game changer,” he said “That puts a lot of things at risk that a lot of us believe in and cherish about this country.”

In the months after Trump’s election, Wheeler decided he would get back into politics and challenge Republican Rep. Martha McSally in Congressional District 2 in next year’s midterm elections. He joins a crowded race in the Democratic Party primary.

Wheeler had flirted with the idea of running in CD2 once before in the last election cycle, but a doctor sidelined him for months after a surgery.

In 2017, Wheeler said he is ready to take on McSally.

Calling McSally a “manufactured moderate,” the Tucson Democrat said she didn’t have to defend her voting record in the last cycle.

“She didn’t have to own any votes — it was about repeal, repeal, Obama, Democrats and pointing fingers,” Wheeler said.

And it is health care that Wheeler believes he has a record to run on, voting with statehouse Democrats and some Republicans in 2013 to expand Medicaid in Arizona.

“We added 350,000 people,” he said about increasing the number of residents covered.

McSally, he argued, wants to take away their insurance since she backed the Republican health-care plan being debated in Congress.

“These are votes she is now going to have to own,” he said.

Wheeler said he wants to go one step further — supporting a single-payer health-care system for all Americans.

“We are already covering the most expensive segment of the population, 65 and older,” he said, noting it will be a controversial stance in a crowded field of Democrats.

It won’t happen overnight, he concedes, but he is optimistic Democrats will take control of the House in 2018 and the White House in 2020.

But first he will need to secure the Democratic nomination in CD2 next year. Democrats who have either announced they are running or are testing the waters are former U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, emergency-room Dr. Matt Heinz, small-business owner Billy Kovacs, pilot Jeff Latas, small-business owner Charlie Verdin and a retired assistant secretary of the Army, Mary Matiella.

Contact reporter Joe Ferguson at jferguson@tucson.com or 573-4197. On Twitter: @JoeFerguson

Reporter

Reporter with the Arizona Daily Star. I cover politics as well as the city of Tucson and other municipalities in Southern Arizona.