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The Skinny

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Crowded House

Two more Democrats want to join the race to unseat U.S. Rep. Martha McSally

Two Democrats made it official over the last week: They are in the hunt to unseat Republican Congresswoman Martha McSally.

Former state lawmaker Matt Heinz and Mary Matiella, a former U.S. assistant secretary of the Army, both filed paperwork with Federal Election Commission to become candidates in the highly competitive Congressional District 2.

Heinz is a physician who served in the Arizona House of Representatives from 2008 to 2012. He has made two previous runs for the Congressional District 2 seat. He lost to then-incumbent Ron Barber in 2012 and was beaten by McSally in the 2016 general election.

Although he lost that race by 14 percentage points, Heinz said he expected the national mood toward Republicans had changed so much since President Donald Trump's election that he would have a better chance.

"I think we have to wipe the slate clean in comparing this cycle to last cycle because it's just so different with Donald Trump in the White House," Heinz said. "People are scared. They see dysfunction in Washington. They don't think Congress or the executive branch are working for them."

He pointed to comments that McSally herself made during a recent talk to the Arizona Bankers Association, when she indicated that Trump was making her reelection effort difficult.

Any Republican member of Congress, you are going down with the ship," McSally told the crowd. "And we're going to hand the gavel to Pelosi in 2018, they only need 28 seats and the path to that gavel being handed over is through my seat. And right now, it doesn't matter that it's me, it doesn't matter what I've done. I have an 'R' next to my name and right now, this environment would have me not prevail."

Earlier this week, on Monday, June 19, political newcomer Mary Matiella announced she was going to be a candidate at the weekly meeting of Democrats of Greater Tucson.

"I want to make sure that the things that realized the American dream for me are realized for others—that the folks who desire to make a better life for themselves, wherever they are in the country, have the ability to make a better life for themselves," Matiella said in an interview last week. "That they have access to a better education, that they have access to health care, that they have access to all the social programs that make it possible for them to succeed, that our country's environment is taken care of. And so I believe that I have to step up."

Matiella grew up in Southern Arizona. Her father worked farm fields and construction jobs. She attended Pueblo High and then, although Latinas weren't encouraged to seek higher education, earned a BA (Class of '73) and MBA (Class of '76) at the University of Arizona.

Matiella went on to a long career as an accountant in the Armed Services and U.S. Forest Service, capped when President Barack Obama appointed her as an assistant secretary of the Army (Financial Management and Comptroller).

Heinz and Matiella are in a crowded field of potential Democrats who are considering a challenge to McSally, a rising Republican star who first won the CD2 seat in 2014 by a mere 167 votes. McSally has proven herself a powerful fundraiser and is, as a former A-10 pilot and squadron leader, a solid fit for a district that is home to both Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and Fort Huachuca, as well as many retired veterans.

But Democrats hope many of McSally's votes, including her push for the House healthcare bill that removes protections for people with preexisting conditions, cuts back on Medicaid funding for poor Arizonans and eliminates funding for Planned Parenthood, will hurt her reelection changes in 2018.

Among the other candidates considering a run: Former state lawmaker Bruce Wheeler; Jet Blue pilot and Air Force vet Jeff Latas; Hotel Congress operations manager Billy Kovacs; and four or five other people you've probably never heard of before.

And there's another potential heavyweight considering a campaign: Ann Kirkpatrick, who represented Congressional District 1 from 2012 to 2016 before stepping down to unsuccessfully challenge Sen. John McCain last year. While she has lived in Northern Arizona during her legislative and congressional career, Kirkpatrick has roots in Tucson, having attended law school at the UA and worked at the Pima County Attorney's Office.

Sources close to Kirkpatrick say she remains motivated to challenge McSally, particularly after McSally voted in favor of the GOP healthcare legislation that would allow states to eliminate current protections for people with preexisting medical conditions and lead to an estimated 23 million Americans losing their health insurance, according to a Congressional Budget Office study.

Judgment Day

Democrats file suit to knock indie candidate off November city ballot

It looks like Tucson City Council candidate Gary Watson needs to lawyer up.

Watson, a firefighter who is running as an independent for the open Ward 3 seat, is facing a legal challenge to his candidacy.

Attorney Vince Rabago, representing plaintiff Sheila Yamanaka, has filed a lawsuit alleging that Watson does not have enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.

Watson needs 377 signatures to qualify. He turned in 536, but Rabago alleges in a court filing that 294 are invalid, leaving Watson well shy of the minimum number of signatures.

A review of Watson's petitions from the Pima County Recorder's Office showed that Watkin was shy by just one signature.

But Rabago says the Recorder's Office does not check all the various technicalities that could lead to disqualification.

Watson told the Weekly last Thursday, June 15, that he was having trouble finding legal counsel for less than $10,000. That's a steep price to pay for a political rookie who faced an uphill battle to win a council in the first place.

Pima County Judge Catherine Woods is set to hear the case in court on Friday, June 23.

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