PHOENIX - Earlier this month, the blunt assessment of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ health her top aide gave the Arizona Republic had two effects. First, it let the public know that the congresswoman’s recovery, while incredible, is not complete. Second, it told voters that she may not ever return to elected office.
That second effect has reverberated inside Arizona Democratic circles, where would-be candidates for the U.S. Senate seat have publicly deferred to Giffords, who was the party’s likely candidate before the tragic shooting in January.
While the frank assessment of Giffords’ recovery is a bit of a peek behind the curtain, the political message is unmistakable: Democrats can, and should, begin readying other candidates.
One prominent Democrat I spoke with this week told me that many insiders have taken the comments about Giffords as a green light of sorts. In response, the source told me that several people who have been very quietly considering running for the Senate are now much more likely to begin making more public overtures in the coming weeks.
There already have been rumors that former Arizona Democratic Party chairman Don Bivens is prepping for a run, and John Hulburd, who lost to Ben Quayle last year, is reportedly waiting to see how districts are redrawn before deciding whether to run for a congressional seat or the Senate.
Democrats in Tucson are also preparing for the possibility that Giffords doesn’t seek re-election to her U.S. House seat.
Much like in the Senate race, names will begin to emerge in the coming weeks, as Democrats jockey for the possible chance to replace Giffords.
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