AZ-03: Arizona Rep. Ruben Gallego kicked off his long-awaited Senate campaign on Monday, and plenty of fellow Democrats are looking at running to succeed him in a majority Latino constituency that’s the bluest U.S. House district in the state by far. The 3rd District, which is based in downtown and western Phoenix, includes most of the territory that made up the 7th District under the old congressional map (yes, we’re still writing AZ-07 on our checks too), and it supported Joe Biden by a massive 75-24 margin.
One Democrat who says she’s considering a bid to replace Gallego is Phoenix City Councilmember Laura Pastor, who comes from a family that has clashed with the congressman in the past. Her late father, Ed Pastor, became the Grand Canyon State’s first Latino member of Congress when he won a 1991 special election for a constituency that at the time stretched from Phoenix to take in Yuma and parts of Tucson well to the south. Laura Pastor ran for the City Council in 2007 but lost to Michael Nowakowski, whose effort was managed by none other than Gallego, after what The Arizona Republic years later characterized as “a bruising campaign.”
The younger Pastor won a Council seat in 2013 against a different opponent, and she decided against running to take her father’s place in D.C. when he announced his retirement the next year. The congressman ultimately backed Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox in the primary, but then-state Rep. Gallego beat her 48-36; Ed Pastor went on to speak well of his successor, who he predicted could be speaker of the House.
Gallego, though, has made it clear for years that he wants to be in the Senate, and Laura Pastor has been talked about as a possible candidate to replace him for a while. The councilmember went on to generate attention in December of 2021 when she urged the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission to revise its proposed congressional map to place a heavily Latino part of Phoenix in Gallego’s seat, a change that would have made Republican Rep. David Schweikert’s new 1st District reliably red.
Pastor, who represented most of this area, said that she was acting to make sure the city’s “historic core,” heavily LGBTQ neighborhoods, and other locations weren’t split; however, skeptics argued she was willing to protect Schweikert in order to boost her own prospects in a future contest to succeed Gallego. But the dramatic changes Pastor wanted didn’t happen, and Schweikert went on to only narrowly win re-election.
Pastor isn’t the only Democrat talking about running for Congress, though, as both Phoenix City Council member Yassamin Ansari and former state House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding tell Axios’s Jeremy Duda that they’re interested. Ansari is the first Iranian American elected to office in the state, while Bolding would be Arizona’s first Black member of Congress. Bolding last year campaigned for secretary of state but lost the primary 53-47 to Adrian Fontes, who went on to win the post in the fall.
Both Duda and the Arizona Republic’s Tara Kavaler also offer some other names as possibilities:
- former state Rep. Cesar Chavez
- U.S. Senate staffer Luis Heredia
- State Sen. Catherine Miranda
- State Senate Minority Leader Raquel Terán
- State Corporation Commissioner Anna Tovar
Miranda, who endorsed Republican Doug Ducey when he first ran for governor in 2014, challenged Gallego for renomination in 2018 but lost in a 75-25 landslide. That wasn’t the end of her career, though, as she won back a spot in the state Senate last year. Heredia, for his part, serves as state director for Sen. Mark Kelly.
Finally, Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Gallardo said he wouldn’t run for Congress, but not everyone is taking his no as final. Duda writes that there’s speculation that Gallardo could switch course if he loses this weekend’s vote to replace Terán as state party chair.