Lea Márquez-Peterson, president and CEO of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, last week announced her bid for the Congressional District 2 seat currently held by Republican Congresswoman Martha McSally.
While a flurry of Democrats—former U.S. representative Ann Kirkpatrick, former state lawmakers Matt Heinz and Bruce Wheeler, retired assistant secretary for the U.S. Army Mary Matiella and hotel manager Billy Kovacs—have thrown their names in the race, Márquez-Peterson is the first Republican to announce that she'd like to replace McSally, who defeated Democratic incumbent Ron Barber in 2014.
McSally reportedly told her fellow GOP members of Arizona House delegation that she plans to run for the retiring Jeff Flake's Senate seat, but she hasn't announce a bid for the office. If she gets into the race, she'd face former state lawmaker Kelli Ward, known for being closely aligned with Donald Trump.
Márquez-Peterson said she will only run if McSally makes a play for the Senate, adding that she's a big supporter of the congresswoman. She said she was generally in line with McSally's border-security views, suggesting that an expanded border wall may be a solution in conjunction with more Border Patrol agents and new technologies.
The most important issue facing the region is economic, she said, adding that while the economy has bounced back for big cities like Phoenix, more rural areas like Douglas are still suffering.
"I'm prepared to tackle the challenges facing Southern Arizona and work to improve economic conditions for our businesses and for our families," she said at her campaign launch party on Dec. 14. "I'm going to take what I learned in running the Chamber of Commerce and apply that to Congress."
Arizona's highly competitive District 2 was won by Barber in 2012, but McSally won it in 2014. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which works to elect Democrats to the U.S. House of Representatives, has already taken aim to Márquez-Peterson, citing delinquent property taxes, debt, lawsuits and a bankruptcy filing relating to a couple of failed Chevron gas stations she owned over a decade ago.
Márquez-Peterson said she's learned from her mistakes.
"I took the risk," she said about her failed business. "Unfortunately, it didn't work out, and not all businesses are successful."
The 47-year-old business woman runs four Hispanic chambers, three of which are in District 2. And she's lived in the district for 40 years.
Local car dealer Jim Click, a major Republican donor, said while Democratic candidate Ann Kirkpatrick only recently moved to the district, Márquez-Peterson has lived here almost her whole life.
"I'm impressed with her grasp of Southern Arizona," he said. "And she's female, and she's Hispanic, so I think she's perfect."