Ending what had turned into a week of wonder, speculation and fallback planning, U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema today announced she will not switch from her current central Phoenix district to run for retiring Rep. Ed Pastor’s overwhelmingly Democratic south Phoenix district.
In a statement released on her Facebook page, Sinema said that she loves her job representing Arizona’s 9th Congressional District, and that she was flattered to have been asked to consider running in the neighboring district where she used to live.
After Pastor announced he would retire this year, ending 23 years of representing the minority-majority south Phoenix congressional district, Democrats began announcing they would run for the seat.
The district, Arizona’s 7th, has a built-in 32-point Democratic advantage, according to figures calculated by the state’s redistricting commission.
That would have meant a much easier campaign for Sinema every two years, had she chosen to run in CD7.
But because of the heavy minority composition of CD7, Sinema’s entrance to the race would have meant competing against several Hispanic Democrats.
Even without Sinema in the race, the CD7 Democratic primary promises to be fiercely contested.
Rep. Ruben Gallego, Sen. Steve Gallardo and Maricopa County Supervisor Mary-Rose Wilcox have already said they will bid for the seat. Phoenix City Councilman Daniel Valenzuela has said he is considering a run.
With more than $1 million cash on hand reported at the end of 2013, Sinema would have had an enormous financial advantage over the Hispanic Democrats who will now seek the seat. But within the state and nationally, many Democrats said a move into CD7 by Sinema would have been an affront to the district’s minority character.
Democratic consultant Mario Diaz, who had urged Sinema to stay in CD9, said her decision was appreciated by those who want to see a Latino succeed Pastor.
“Congresswoman Sinema’s decision to continue to represent her constituents is much appreciated. I’m personally grateful to her,” Diaz said.
Arizona Democratic Party Executive Director D.J. Quinlan said that while some Hispanic Democrats may have been worried in recent days, taking time to evaluate the possibility of switching districts is natural.
“I think people were caught off guard by Pastor’s retirement,” Quinlan said. “Some folks take time to analyze their situation and figure out what they’re going to do.”
Chris Baker, a Republican campaign consultant, said a departure by Sinema from CD9 could also have led to scramble by Republicans who previously chose not to challenge Sinema.
“The practical effect, had she left, would have been stronger candidates getting into the race,” Baker said. “The two in that race now (Republicans, Wendy Rogers and Andrew Walter) are not exactly setting things on fire.”
Republican campaign consultant Dan Caldwell, of Direct Access Strategies, said it would have made sense that Arizona Republicans Vernon Parker, Kirk Adams, Ben Quayle, Sal DiCiccio, and Steve Moak, who all unsuccessfully ran for Congress in the past, would consider a run in CD9, had Sinema sought the CD7 seat.
Caldwell noted that deep-pocketed outside Republican groups, like the National Republican Congressional Committee and Americans for Prosperity, have not put money into the Republican candidates in CD9, because of Sinema’s perceived dominance in the district.