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Back to the Swamp: Some Former Members Are Itching to Return

Ann Kirkpatrick is not the only ex-lawmaker making a comeback bid

Former Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz., gave her up seat for an unsuccessful run for Senate in 2016. Two years later, she’s running for the House from a different Arizona district. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Former Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz., gave her up seat for an unsuccessful run for Senate in 2016. Two years later, she’s running for the House from a different Arizona district. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

“This place sucks,” Sen. Joe Manchin reportedly told Senate Democratic leaders about Congress earlier this year.

That didn’t stop the West Virginia Democrat from filing for re-election four days before the filing deadline in January. 

But others reached a different conclusion. Thirty-five members of Congress voluntarily decided to pack their bags this year. (The total does not include those who’ve already resigned, lost primaries, or ran or are running for another office.)

Some have attributed their decisions to leave to the divisiveness in Congress, and the political turmoil since the 2016 election.  

And the package bombs some members received in the mail last week may cause more to re-evaluate their futures on Capitol Hill — assuming they win re-election next month. As of Friday, the bomb targets have included Rep. Maxine Waters of California and Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris of California, all Democrats. Meanwhile, Florida Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo said last week that he had received a death threat

Despite the turmoil, a handful of former lawmakers are itching to return to the proverbial D.C. swamp.

Former Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick served three terms representing Arizona’s 1st District, before unsuccessfully challenging Republican Sen. John McCain in 2016

She’s now running for the Tucson-anchored 2nd District, where she moved shortly before she launched her comeback bid. She won a bruising primary in late August and next faces Republican Lea Marquez Peterson, the CEO of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

“Legislating and being effective in Congress is about building relationships, and I already have a lot of those relationships in place. But I look forward to making new connections with the new people who are coming in,” Kirkpatrick said in a recent interview in Tucson.

[Kirkpatrick Works to Recreate Old Magic in New Arizona District]

She cited the encouragement she received to run from former Democratic Reps. Ron Barber and Gabrielle Giffords, who previously represented the district or an earlier version of it. 

“[It] wasn’t something I initially thought I’d ever do again after the Senate race in 2016, but [Giffords has] been so supportive and helpful and encouraging,” she said.

Kirkpatrick’s not the only former lawmaker seeking a comeback.

The 116th Congress is guaranteed to have at least one returnee. Two former Nevada congressmen, Republican Cresent Hardy and Democrat Steven Horsford, are facing off for their old 4th District seat. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Leans Democratic.

In Hawaii, former Democratic Rep. Ed Case is the big favorite in his Solid Democratic race for the 1st District. (He previously represented the 2nd District for two terms.)

And former Mississippi Democratic Rep. Mike Espy is running for Senate in a jungle special election primary for the last two years of the term of former GOP Sen. Thad Cochran, who resigned in April. The race is rated Solid Republican

Kirkpatrick lost her Senate bid to McCain two years ago by 13 points, and she didn’t seem eager to repeat that experience again.

“Running for the House is a little more local. Running for the Senate is tough, and I really give credit to Kyrsten Sinema for taking it on. You have to cover the whole state,” she said.

Sinema is the Democratic nominee for the open seat that Arizona GOP Sen. Jeff Flake is vacating. Inside Elections rates her race against Republican Rep. Martha McSally, a Toss-up.

It was McSally’s decision to run for Senate that opened up her 2nd District seat that Kirkpatrick is seeking. Democrats have long eyed the Hillary Clinton-supporting 2nd as a top pickup opportunity in their quest to take back the House. 

Inside Elections rates her race with Marquez Peterson Leans Democratic

Watch: What to Watch in the Final Stretch of the Arizona Senate Race

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