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Rep. Ruben Gallego rules out 2020 Senate run after months of speculation

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)

PHOENIX — After months of speculation, U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego has decided against running in the Democratic primary for Arizona’s U.S. Senate seat next year.

Andy Barr, an adviser to Gallego, confirmed the decision Monday in an email to KTAR News 92.3 FM.

That leaves Mark Kelly, a former NASA astronaut and husband of former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, as the sole Democrat running to face the likely Republican candidate, incumbent Martha McSally.

Gallego told reporters in Washington he doesn’t want to engage in a bitter primary before pivoting to the general election for a seat that’s crucial for Democrats eying the Senate majority.

“Republicans want a bitter primary between Democrats so they can hold this seat,” he said. “And you know what, if they want that, they’re going to have to find another race.”

Gallego served in Iraq with the U.S. Marine Corps and is a graduate of Harvard University. His former wife, Kate Gallego, was elected Phoenix mayor this month and took office last week.

“As a Navy guy, I know it’s always better to avoid a fight with a Marine,” Kelly said in a statement from his campaign.

“I have a lot of respect for Congressman Gallego’s service to our nation. I look forward to working with him to stand up for Arizona families.”

Gallego had been teasing a run for the late U.S. Sen. John McCain’s seat for months. In January, a source close to the congressman told KTAR News that he was “very interested” in running for Senate.

The Arizona Democrat met with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairwoman Catherine Cortez Masto in January to discuss the move. 

After Kelly announced in February that he was running for Senate, Gallego said in a tweet that he would be “making a final decision and announcement soon.”

Another Arizona Democrat had already pulled his hat out of the ring for Senate.

Former Attorney General Grant Woods told Bruce St. James and Pamela Hughes on Feb. 8 that he would not seek election in 2020. Woods switched parties while he considered a Senate run after McCain’s death.

The candidate who is elected to McCain’s seat will serve alongside U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who was elected to Jeff Flake’s seat in November.

The 2020 election will decide who finishes the last two years of McCain’s term. The winner would have to run again for a full six-year term in 2022.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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