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The Arizona candidate filing deadline is one year from today, but political insiders in the state expect to hear whether Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) will be running again for federal office much earlier than that.
Her Democratic colleagues in Congress are raising money for Giffords so she can run for whatever office she chooses. Sen. Mark Udall (Colo.) and Reps. Rosa DeLauro (Conn.) and Adam Smith (Wash.) have headlined or hosted fundraisers in recent days.
But no one from either party in Washington, D.C., or Arizona who spoke with Roll Call said they think Giffords will run for the state’s open Senate seat, a campaign that she had been planning before being wounded by a gunman at a constituent outreach event in January.
“In terms of Senate, Democrats like myself hope and pray that the Congresswoman gets well and miraculously steps forward and announces her campaign for Senate. But I’m not holding my breath for that,” Phoenix-based Democratic strategist Mario Diaz said. “My understanding is that she’s going to run for re-election.”
He added that if Giffords were to run for Senate, that decision would need to be made by midsummer, so she or another Democrat could begin raising the $6 million likely needed to compete with Rep. Jeff Flake or whoever emerges from the GOP primary. Giffords has more time to decide whether she plans to run for re-election, Diaz said.
In Giffords’ absence, as she recovers from a traumatic brain injury at a Houston rehabilitation center, insiders said the Giffords Congressional and campaign staff are keeping the two separate offices running smoothly. But the uncertainty surrounding her future plans has frozen the political situation of the district.
“I just don’t think Democrats can do anything until she makes a decision or they make a decision for her,” one plugged-in Republican said. “But the Republicans are almost as frozen. People clearly want to run, but they’re going to have to rethink it if she decides to run.”
Beyond Giffords’ health, redistricting is another major factor keeping candidates from launching campaigns. Arizona has an independent commission redrawing the Congressional lines, and even party insiders said they have no idea what the new map will look like.
One Republican reconsidering his options is Giffords’ 2010 opponent, Jesse Kelly, who filed to run in early January and had a six-figure fundraiser scheduled for the weekend after Giffords was shot. But that event was quickly canceled, and Kelly went on to raise just $25 in the first quarter.