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Gallego Weighs 2020 Senate Run, Confident About Primary Prospects

Possibility of party winning back House will factor in Arizona Democrat’s decision

Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., is weighing a run for Senate in 2020. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., is weighing a run for Senate in 2020. (Sarah Silbiger/CQ Roll Call file photo)

PHOENIX — Rep. Ruben Gallego is focused on helping Democrats win in Arizona in 2018, but he’s also weighing a Senate run of his own in two years time. And he’s confident he would win a Democratic primary.

The Arizona Democrat has previously said he is considering a run for the 2020 special election for the last two years of the late Republican Sen. John McCain’s term. Former GOP Sen. Jon Kyl was appointed to McCain’s seat, but he has said he plans to step down at the end of the year.

“At the end of the day, I think we’re going to make a determination based on: Can we win? And can we make a difference for Arizona?” Gallego said in an interview here at a local coffee shop Tuesday morning. “And that’s it. I’m not really worried about a primary.”

The two-term congressman from the 7th District was confident he could defeat Grant Woods, McCain’s former chief of staff and onetime state attorney general. Woods has said he is considering switching parties to run as a Democrat or independent.

“Grant Woods cannot win a Democratic primary in Arizona. So he can make his own determination, and I will just make my own in my own time,” Gallego said. “And we’ll go to a race, and I’ll defeat him and that will be that.”

“He was [co-]chairman of Gov. [Jan] Brewer’s re-election campaign after SB 1070,” the congressman added, referring to the state’s controversial 2010 immigration law. “That’s not going to fly with Democrats”

Watch: Fiery Arizona Debate in 4 Minutes

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Gallego said his decision will also hinge on whether Democrats win back the House in November, citing the possibility that he could become the next chairman of the Indian Affairs Subcommittee. He also said he had to consider how to balance a Senate run with caring for his young son.

Another factor in his decision to run? The outcome of this year’s competitive Senate race that features two House colleagues — Democrat  Kyrsten Sinema and Republican Martha McSally — for retiring GOP Sen. Jeff Flake’s seat. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race a Toss-up.

“It’s difficult winning statewide here. And luckily you have a great example in how Sinema is being competitive about it,” Gallego said. “I would probably have to look strongly about [it]. There’s no guarantee that I would win.”

Gallego, a Marine veteran who served in Iraq, was first elected in 2014, winning a competitive Democratic primary for his Phoenix-area seat. He has been among the Democrats critical of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and backed Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan for leader two years ago.

Pelosi has opened the door to a short-term speakership should Democrats win back the House.

Asked if that would be acceptable to anti-Pelosi Democrats, Gallego said, “I think she needs to first focus on making sure the Democrats win before she starts coming up with her platform and how she wants to transfer her power because she doesn’t have the power of speakership right now.”

Any discussions about who could lead the House Democrats in the next Congress should wait until after the election, according to Gallego.

“Anything before that is totally inappropriate, on her part or anybody else’s part,” he said.

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