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Napolitano Spokesman Casts Doubt on Senate Bid

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano appears disinclined to mount a bid for the Senate seat of retiring Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), according to comments e-mailed to Roll Call on Thursday evening by her spokesman.

Democratic insiders in Arizona say that the former governor and state attorney general still belongs on the list of their party’s frontrunners for the 2012 Senate race. Although Homeland Security spokesman Matthew Chandler did not categorically rule out the possibility of Napolitano entering the race, he said she plans to spend the next two years working with Kyl to execute the duties of her White House Cabinet position.

“The Secretary is devoting her time to getting the job done that the President asked her to do — protecting the American people from terrorism and other threats to our country,” Chandler said. “She’s focused on continuing to strengthen our counter-terrorism initiatives, border security, immigration enforcement, transportation and cyber security, and disaster preparedness. We are not going to engage in speculation.
“The Secretary looks forward to continuing to work [with] Sen. Kyl over the next two years and wishes him the very best in his upcoming retirement,” Chandler added.

Democratic sources in the Grand Canyon State say that seven to 10 additional names belong on the list of potential candidates for their party’s nomination in the Senate race. Most of the people on the list are known to at least be looking into a bid, if not strongly considering it.

The list includes Rep. Ed Pastor; Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon; longtime Democratic activist Fred DuVal, vice chairman of the Arizona Board of Regents; lawyer and former state Democratic Party Chairman Don Bivens; Felecia Rotellini, the 2010 nominee for state attorney general; and current state Democratic Party Chairman Andrei Cherny, who was the 2010 nominee for state treasurer. Rotellini is credited with running the strongest Democratic race for a statewide position in what was a banner year for the GOP.

And then there’s Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Democrats say she was planning to run for Kyl’s seat in the event that he decided not to run for re-election, but she is now recuperating from an assassination attempt. The Democrat was shot in the head in Tucson in early January; Kyl announced last week that he would retire.

It remains unclear whether Giffords will be in any shape to run in a competitive, grueling Senate race or whether she will have the desire to do so. Some Arizona Democrats are holding out hope.

“It’s too soon to say it’s impossible and write it off,” one Arizona Democratic insider said of a Giffords candidacy.

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