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Arizona: Democratic Field Does Not Completely Clear for Barber

The Democratic field narrowed Friday in the race for a full two-year term in the Tucson, Ariz., area, but it did not clear.

State Sen. Paula Aboud (D) became the second Democratic contender to drop out of the race and throw support behind former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords staffer Ron Barber. But one candidate is staying put. State House Rep. Matt Heinz said in an interview Friday afternoon that he is “absolutely” still in the race.

Heinz, who is not running in the June special election to fill out Giffords’ term, said that his level of support has”intensified” since Barber made his intention to run for the full term known.

This race is for Arizona’s 2nd district. It closely resembles the current 8th, which is vacant due to Giffords’ retirement. A primary to succeed her will be held on April 17, and the special election will be on June 12.

“I look forward to a positive, competitive primary in the fall,” Heinz said. He added that primaries “make all of us better candidates in the general.”

Heinz describes himself as a “moderate Democrat.” He is the only practicing medical doctor in the Arizona Legislature, and he cites that expertise, along with his experience as a lawmaker as reasons he can effectively serve.

When asked if anyone in the party has asked him to step aside in deference to the Barber campaign, he said, “I’ve communicated with local party officials, and there’s been no request for me to step aside.”

He stressed that local voters, party members and activists should determine primaries, not national players.

But his campaign sets up a scenario where if Barber wins the special election, he will be challenging a sitting incumbent from his own party on the Aug. 28 primary.

“The outcome of the June election will not affect my plans to run in the fall,” Heinz said.

Heinz’s candidacy does set up an awkward dynamic for Democrats. Although Barber announced his bid for the special election on Feb. 9, he did not make his candidacy clear for the November full-term election until March 19. Aboud, state Rep. Steve Farley and Heinz had been building campaigns for that race.

Once Barber made his intentions known, Farley quickly dropped out and endorsed him. Aboud followed suit on Friday, announcing her decision on Facebook.

“My priority has always been for us to maintain Gabby’s Congressional seat as a Democratic seat and I believe that uniting behind one candidate will assist us in making that more likely,” she wrote. “This race is critical to Arizona’s future; it’s time for Democrats  to focus our resources.”

Giffords and her husband, Mark Kelly are backing Barber, and national Democrats have participated in fundraisers for him. He also has much of the former Congresswoman’s political brain trust.

An Arizona source said that Barber has had a successful first quarter in fundraising. Barber was only an active candidate for February and March.

Roll Call Politics rates this race as Tossup. Those vying for the GOP nomination include veteran Jesse Kelly, veteran Martha McSally, college sports broadcaster Dave Sitton and state Sen. Frank Antenori.

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