Congress

Contenders for McCain‘s Arizona Senate seat huddle with Sen. Chuck Schumer

Rep. Ruben Gallego and astronaut Mark Kelly are among the possible candidates

Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., confirmed he has met with Minority Leader Chuck Schumer ahead of a possible run for Senate. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

The three top Democratic Party contenders considering a challenge to appointed Republican Sen. Martha McSally of Arizona have met with Sen. Chuck Schumer, one of the potential candidates confirmed Monday.

“He knows that Arizona is a swing state and he’s talking to a couple of candidates here in Arizona,” Rep. Ruben Gallego said in an interview with KTVK. “He’s very realistic about what we need to do to win this state and I made a good case for why I’d be the best candidate should I decide to run.”

The Democrat told the news station he would make a decision about whether to mount a bid in the next couple of weeks. 

The two others that met with Schumer, and are in the Democratic race for the seat vacated by Republican Sen. John McCain, were former McCain chief of staff and state attorney general Grant Woods and former astronaut Mark Kelly.

McSally was named to McCain’s seat by Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey in December. She replaced Sen. Jon Kyl, who replaced McCain immediately after the longtime Arizona politician died in August. She will serve until 2020, when a special election will be held for the remaining two years of McCain’s term.

An aide to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee confirmed last week that Gallego, Kelly and Woods have also met with the campaign committee.

“We’re all friends,” Gallego said.

Kelly is married to former Arizona Democratic Rep. Gabriel Giffords, who survived a deadly shooting in 2011. Her namesake political action committee supports candidates who embrace gun reform. 

Gallego has been critical of Democratic leadership over the years. The 7th District Democrat represents a large Latino community. In 2017, he claimed that then-Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi capitulated to the White House on immigration funding.

Gallego was likely encouraged by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s victory over McSally in November. 

“It’s difficult winning statewide here. And luckily you have a great example in how Sinema is being competitive about it,” Gallego said before the midterm election.

Like Sinema, Gallego positions himself as a military hawk. Gallego serves on the House Armed Services Committee, and he served in Iraq as a U.S. Marine lance corporal for seven months in 2005.

Arizona will likely be one of the most competitive races of the cycle.

Sinema won last year by 2 points in the traditionally Republican state, which appears to be trending Democratic. President Donald Trump won Arizona by less than 4 points in 2016.

Democrats are already targeting McSally, with the DSCC releasing statements tying her to the ongoing partial government shutdown.

The committee also released a digital video when she was sworn in, saying she was “Washington’s senator, not Arizona’s.”  

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the Arizona Senate race a Toss-up.

Bridget Bowman contributed to this report.Watch: ‘My wife is worried I’ll end up on the ‘Hoarders’ show’: Grijalva’s art-filled Arizona cocoon

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.