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Marquez Peterson to run for CD 2 seat held by McSally

Lea Marquez Peterson will announce her run for Congress next week, with the Republican tossing her hat into a primary ring that's been all but vacated by sitting Rep. Martha McSally.

Marquez Peterson, head of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and former gas station owner, said in an email to potential supporters that she'll declare for the race next Thursday.

McSally, meanwhile, has yet to formally declare that she's seeking a Senate seat, but told Republicans last month that she was looking to move up to that chamber.

Marquez Peterson touted her "proven record of advocating for hard-working Arizonans" and said "I believe we have a duty to provide more opportunities for families and small businesses to thrive."

She said she would "gauge the support of voters throughout Arizona’s second congressional district and spread the message of fiscal conservatism."

"I’d never run against Martha," Marquez Peterson said in an email to TucsonSentinel.com. "I'm a strong supporter of hers."

"I'm moving forward believing that she intends to run for Senate," said Marquez Peterson, who has been a close ally of Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and who insiders say has backing from GOP power players like car dealer Jim Click.

The Republican, who holds an MBA from Pepperdine University and studied marketing at the University of Arizona, has yet to file paperwork with the Federal Election Commission. She registered a campaign website, voteforlea.com, on Wednesday, but the site remained blank Thursday evening.

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Marquez Peterson said she'll file with the FEC next week.

On the Democratic side, a pack of candidates are vying to be the finalist next November. Among them are Ann Kirkpatrick, the former CD 1 congresswoman who lost the U.S. Senate race to John McCain last year; former Assistant Army Secretary Mary Matiella; Matt Heinz, who lost to McSally in November 2016; political newcomer Billy Kovacs; and former state representative Bruce Wheeler.

McSally's status still unclear

In one of the slowest campaign rollouts in history, McSally made her intention to seek a Senate seat clear early in November, but only behind closed doors. She told her GOP colleagues that she plans to seek the Senate seat being vacated by U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake.

She hasn't yet made a formal announcement or filed campaign paperwork, and McSally and her staff have dodged questions from reporters about the Senate race.

Flake announced in October that he was walking away from a 2018 re-election bid, saying in a speech on the Senate floor that he “will not be complicit or silent” about the ongoing degradation of the political climate.

Flake, despite raising $4 million for his campaign by July, faced a stiff primary challenge from Tea Party favorite Kelli Ward, a former state legislator from western Arizona noted for her right-wing views. Ward, tagged with the nickname "Chemtrail Kelli" after holding a government hearing on the conspiracy fantasy about aircraft emissions, has been endorsed by former White House strategist Steve Bannon.

Complicating the political calculus in Arizona is the state of U.S. Sen. John McCain's health. He was diagnosed with a serious brain cancer last summer, and may be forced to resign. That would mean a brief appointment for a replacement, and an election next November to determine who would hold the seat through the balance of term, ending in 2022.

McSally has shown herself to be a capable fundraiser, pulling in so many millions for her Southern Arizona congressional races that she's had trouble properly filing campaign records.

The second-term Tucson Republican narrowly won election in 2014, and prevailed again in 2016. She faces the potential of another bruising race in Arizona's CD 2, with a bevy of Democrats vying to challenge her — including Kirkpatrick, the former congresswoman.

Kirkpatrick has also been a fundraising powerhouse, and has the backing of many national Democrats in the primary race.

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McSally's district voted against Donald Trump in 2016, and if she seeks re-election to the House she may be in the fight of her political life.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly spelled “Peterson,” but so did the candidate’s EventBrite listing for the campaign announcement — although in a different manner than our typo.


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