With Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., set to step down this week, who is lining up to replace her? A number of names already are circulating as potential candidates, according to Arizona political sources.
There are several prospective Republican candidates, though most GOPers have tread very lightly. Jesse Kelly, the 2010 Republican nominee, filed to run again almost immediately after losing to Giffords but suspended his nascent run quickly after the congresswoman was shot a year ago. Dave Sitton, a sports broadcaster for the University of Arizona, has considered a Republican run in recent months, and he has the backing of a major fundraiser in auto dealer Jim Click. Republican state Sens. Jonathan Paton and Frank Antenori are also possible candidates. Paton ran in 2010 and was a favored candidate of the National Republican Congressional Committee before losing to Kelly in the primary.
Several Democratic names have also come up. According to an Arizona Daily Star report in December, Democratic state Sen. Paula Aboud and state Rep. Matt Heinz were "actively soliciting support for their potential candidacies" if Giffords decided to retire and state legislator Steve Farley may also be in the running. Tucson's Linda McNulty, a Democratic member of the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, and David Crowe, have also been mentioned as possible candidates.
“Nobody has been publicly floating their names that aggressively yet, but I imagine that will change in the next 24-36 hours,” one Arizona Democratic source said on Sunday.
There also is talk, according to sources, that current members of Giffords’ congressional staff might be in the mix, including chief of staff Pia Carusone, and state director Ron Barber. Much of this talk centers on speculation that Giffords and her aides plan to rally as soon as this week behind a specific Democratic candidate, and that the choice is someone who might consider being a “placeholder” for the congresswoman until such time she might be able to return to office.