Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema is undoubtedly tempted to jump from her current swing district to the solidly Democratic 7th Congressional District seat being vacated by the retirement of Rep. Ed Pastor, but her campaign is not addressing widespread speculation she will enter the fray.
Sinema has been the subject of talk since late last week, when Pastor announced he was retiring after 23 years serving his south Phoenix district. Her campaign and political consultants have declined to comment on whether she’ll jump districts. Under federal rules, Sinema won’t have to move into the district to run for Pastor’s seat.
Arizona political consultants and even an announced candidate for Pastor’s seat say she has got to be seriously looking at the district. That’s because her current Tempe-based district, while leaning Democratic, could go the other way in any election.
“There is no denial – and they could end it with one sentence – but they’re not,” said Barrett Marson, a Republican political consultant. “The reason they’re not is because they’re looking at it.”
The 7th District is majority Hispanic, and her possible district switch prompted a letter Monday from Latino business leaders who urged her not to enter the race because she is white.
“Your candidacy in Congressional District 7 will cause major disruption in the possibility that the Latino community will have a representative in our community in Washington, D.C.,” said the letter, written by Mario Diaz and signed by 14 other community and business leaders. “
Sinema is stuck with a problem many in the U.S. House of Representatives face — having to continually raise money to fend off challengers in the next election cycle. Safe districts like Pastor’s can free them of that cycle of ongoing phone calls and fundraisers and allow them to focus on policy.
Several prominent politicians are interested in Pastor’s seat, including Sen. Steve Gallardo, Rep. Ruben Gallego and Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox.
“I don’t blame Sinema for weighing all her options – I think if I was in her shoes I would be doing the same thing,” Gallardo said Monday. “But there’s been a lot of work, a lot of resources put into CD 9 to make it a Democratic district, and if you leave, you put it right back in play.”
Gallardo acknowledged that Sinema’s sizable war chest — she has more than $1 million in her campaign account — would make her a formidable opponent, and she’s represented parts of the district before while in the Arizona Legislature.
But the 7th District will likely take more than money to win — it will take on-the-ground organizing and get-out-the-vote efforts to lure low-frequency voters to the polls for the August primary.
Gallardo touts his 12 years representing the area, working on issues important to the minority community and building up a reputation as someone who shows up, whether it’s for a labor protest or fighting for child care subsidies.
“Is she a game changer? Yeah. Does she clear the field? I’m not sure,” Gallardo said. “I’m not sure what Mary Rose would do, I’m not sure what Ruben would do, but I’m moving forward. I am in it for the long haul.”