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Kozachik says he won't run in CD 2

Scratch one name of the list of potential Democratic candidates in Arizona's CD 2: City Councilman Steve Kozachik said Tuesday he won't seek to challenge U.S. Rep. Martha McSally.

Saying that he and his staff are "frequently asked about my intentions with regard to running for higher office," Kozachik said in a news release that he is "committed to finishing out the full four-year term to which I was elected in 2013."

The Midtown councilman, elected in 2009 as a Republican before switching party registration prior to his successful 2013 reelection race, said that "further, I am fully committed to finishing out my professional career working for President Ann Weaver Hart and Athletics Director Greg Byrne at the University of Arizona," where Kozachik works in the athletics department.

From his release:

Since my election to the Tucson City Council in 2009, we have made significant progress in the economic development of the downtown core. The continuation of that momentum is one of the keys to our economic health as a region. Since that time, my staff and I have also established strong working relationships with both business and neighborhood constituents throughout the community. The progress we have made takes time to nurture and develop. Now is not the time to step away from what we have achieved.

Former U.S. Rep. Ron Barber said this weekend that he won't seek to regain his seat.

Party insiders said there wasn't much buzz about a possible Kozachik candidacy, but even so, the list of potential Democratic candidates scribbled on bar napkins across town is long.

State Rep. Bruce Wheeler has already formed an exploratory committee, and said Friday that he's staying in the race regardless of Barber's decision to run.

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"I have nothing but respect for Ron, but I think it's time to move on," Wheeler said. The former Tucson city councilman said he'll stick out his race. "I do not anticipate getting out."

Another potential candidate whose name has long been floated as a congressional contender said he won't seek the seat.

State Sen. Steve Farley said Friday that Congress is "a horrible mess that I don't want to be a part of ... reading from someone else's script nationally."

"Ultimately, I think I'm more interested in the local and state issues," Farley said.

Another possible Democratic candidate, Matt Heinz, lost to Barber in the August 2012 primary, after dropping out of the spring primary to clear the way for Barber's win in the special election.

The former state legislator, who has returned to his medical practice after a stint in Washington, D.C., working on the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, wouldn't give a firm answer Friday on whether he would, as rumored, take another swing at running for Congress.

"Honestly, Ron should have the right of first refusal," Heinz said via text message Friday. "Perhaps we should see if (the U.S. Supreme Court) has anything to say" about Arizona's redistricting process.

"None of this speculation (about candidates) means anything if we don't know the playing field," Heinz said.

According to several sources at the Legislature, state House Speaker David Gowan is pushing a plan that would redraw the Southeastern Arizona district to make it more Republican — giving the Sierra Vista conservative a shot at Congress himself.

In 2016, Barber would be the frontrunner on the Democratic side if he had decided to run, but other candidates have also been mulling whether to toss their hats into the ring.

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The names of state Sen. David Bradley and state Rep. Victoria Steele have been floated as possibilities— as has Nan Walden, who's often rumored as a candidate but who hasn't ever run, despite her Washington experience.

Sources said that both the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Emily's List had canvassed the field for potential female Democratic candidates, but weren't prepared to throw their backing behind anyone.

Regardless of who their candidate is, Democratic operatives have said the party will run hard against McSally.

For her part, the freshman Republican has been raising money for her reelection, bringing in $640,000 in the first quarter of 2015.

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Dylan Smith/TucsonSentinel.com