Kyrsten Sinema’s 2018 U.S. Senate victory has Democrats looking at the 2020 race with hungry eyes.
For one thing, Sinema showed it’s possible for a Democrat to win.
For another, the same Republican she beat, Martha McSally, will presumably be the general-election candidate Dems are running against, since she’s been appointed by Gov. Doug Ducey to hold John McCain’s former seat for two years.
So this time out, you can expect more than the symbolic competition that Sinema, then a member of the U.S. House, faced in the primary election. It should be a freewheeling competition among some heavyweight Democrats and a few lesser known ones.
In 2018, longtime Democratic Party official and donor Bill Roe said, “the risk-reward calculus was a little off. Now they see that it’s winnable, there aren’t going to be so many uncontested (primary) races.”
Who can we expect to jump in? Three big names have signaled their intentions so far: U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego, former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods, and retired astronaut Mark Kelly. All three have met with Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, who is chairwoman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
For Tucsonans, Kelly’s open contemplation of the race may be especially interesting. He is, of course, former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ husband and a Tucson resident, though he is a national figure.
And though Kelly has frequently been rumored as a candidate for public office, he has never so openly contemplated it. Former Rep. Ron Barber, who replaced Giffords in Congress after she was shot and remains close to the couple, said previous rumors of Kelly contemplating a run were baseless. This is his first real consideration.
Not only is Kelly actively considering it himself, he is also the subject of a Draft Mark Kelly petition drive by 314 Action, a Democratic-aligned group that recruits scientists to run for office.
And his national prominence continues to rise. He is appearing with his brother Scott in an Amazon commercial scheduled to air during the Super Bowl this Sunday.
If Kelly is ever going to run, this may be his moment. And it would potentially create an All-Southern-Arizona general election vs. Tucson resident McSally — unless McSally is successfully challenged in the GOP primary.
Kelly would likely face less resistance from the Democratic rank and file then former Republican Woods has faced. Progressives in the party have been going through his records as a radio-show host, pointing out instances of sexist language that they say makes him unfit for a Democratic Party nomination.
But if you look at Sinema’s win, you can see why Woods would entertain a run. He could plausibly run as a bipartisan centrist, the same way Sinema did, and have a chance.
He sent word to me Thursday that he is continuing to meet with Democrats around the state before deciding whether to run.
One candidate we’ll almost certainly see is Gallego. He has spoken confidently of running for months, and his supporters have apparently strategically leaked his meetings with Democratic kingmakers in D.C. in recent weeks.
“Ruben is very seriously looking at running,” campaign strategist Andy Barr said. “We haven’t hired staff or anything like that.”
Gallego is also the only potential Senate candidate who showed up at the state Democratic Party meeting last weekend.
Other names have surfaced but seem unlikely to run. Kelly Fryer, the Tucson YWCA director who ran for the Democratic nomination for governor, sent word she will not be running, citing the “obscene” cost of running U.S. Senate campaigns.
Other names that have been floated, Roe said, are pecan grower and Democratic activist Nan Walden, as well as former Gov. Janet Napolitano, who is serving as chancellor of the University of California system. Neither seems likely to run with relatively strong candidates already flexing their muscles for the race.
City races forming
The campaign for Tucson City Council in Ward 1 is shaping up as expected.
Lane SantaCruz has resigned her position as a staff member for outgoing councilwoman and mayoral candidate Regina Romero. She will likely be the inside favorite, as she can count on Romero’s support for the job. That will also potentially make her the favorite of Democrats aligned with U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva.
Miguel Ortega has also taken formal steps to run, reregistering from independent to Democrat. He was an aide to former Councilwoman Karin Uhlich and has been a west-side community activist.
Those two will face previously announced Democratic candidate Sami Hamed, a longtime community and Democratic activist who has the support of state Reps. Daniel Hernandez and Alma Hernandez.
In the mayoral race, City Councilman Paul Durham has decided not to run, leaving former state Sen. Steve Farley and Romero as the leading Democratic candidates.
Pray for precipitation
This week the state House and Senate moved arduously through hearings on the drought contingency plan, which was passed by the chambers on the deadline day Thursday.
While, of course, the debate was all about what we should be doing to prevent shortages of water from the Colorado River, Sen. David Gowan had the, umm, unique perspective that it is really out of our hands.
Gowan, a Sierra Vista-area Republican who previously served as speaker of the House, said:
“It’s been a long time that we’ve had a drought this long in our state and hopefully we’re getting out of it, but the best thing to do is pray on those issues, ’cause the Lord can give us water. It’s not going to be us that gives our own water to ourselves.”
In the end, Gowan went with the flow, though: He voted yes to pass the drought plan out of committee.
Morgan goes for CD2
You may have noticed editorial page editor Sarah Garrecht Gassen’s note that we’ll no longer be featuring Joseph Morgan on the editorial page because he’s considering a return to politics.
Well, that’s true, and more specifically, Morgan is planning to run for the Republican nomination for Congress in Congressional District 2.
Morgan previously helped run John Winchester’s primary challenge to Republican Pima County Supervisor Ally Miller, but he is a Trump supporter who has developed an audience not just through his Star columns but also by hosting radio shows on KVOI, 1030 AM.
He’s planning to make a formal announcement in February.