Sinema isn't walking away from Senate race against Flake

I tweeted this about 8 p.m. Wednesday:

"NEW @RepSinema won't challenge @JeffFlake, will run for re-election in '18. #AZ09"

Upon further review, I'd like to untweet the "won't challenge @JeffFlake" part.

Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema, one of the very few Arizona Democrats with a real shot at winning a statewide race, hasn't decided yet whether to run for the Senate next fall.

Several Democratic sources tell me Sinema reps were calling concerned Arizona supporters Thursday morning to reassure them: "Nothing's changed." In other words, she's still considering a Senate run.

In an exchange of text messages Thursday, Sinema told me: "I've said what I always say. I'm currently running for re-election." She added, "Check out the interview."

Sinema never said she wouldn't take on Flake during the radio interview Wednesday that led to an online story by KTAR, which led to my tweet. In fact, she never directly answered the question.

Sinema said "I'm running for re-election" three times after the host asked whether "we have a Senate run coming up" and "can you definitely say you're not going to run for the Senate in 2018."

Political insiders weren't swayed by the report that the three-term congresswoman was sitting out a race she's been pointing toward for several years.

"I don't buy it one bit," said Chad Heywood, a former Arizona Republican party executive director who's now a campaign consultant.

There was no reason for Sinema to decide on the race a year-and-a-half before Election Day.

"You don't know the politics of how these different votes will play out," Heywood said, just a few hours after the House voted to repeal Obamacare.

With almost $3 million in the bank, Sinema's already well-positioned to run statewide. She can rake in more bucks as an incumbent running for re-election, then shovel her haul into a Senate campaign.

Flake, who's seeking a second Senate term, is viewed as one of the two weakest Republican senators in next year's off-year elections.

Flake could face a tough GOP primary before the general election. Former State Sen. Kelli Ward, who finished second in the 2016 primary to Sen. John McCain, entered the 2018 race last year.

There's been speculation President Trump might back a candidate against Flake. The Mesa Republican was Trump's harshest critic on Capitol Hill during the presidential campaign.

© 2017 KPNX-TV


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