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State Rep. Matt Heinz jumps into race to fill Giffords' seat

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State Rep. Matt Heinz jumps into race to fill Giffords' seat

  • Heinz with Giffords in 2010.
    Heinz's FacebookHeinz with Giffords in 2010.

While the Democrats continue to jockey behind the scenes to determine who should be given the nod to succeed the retired Gabrielle Giffords, one party member has stepped into the race: state Rep. Matt Heinz.

The two-term legislator, who represents the South Side District 29, announced his candidacy Tuesday.

A medical doctor, Heinz has focused on health care issues in the Legislature.

He will run in both the upcoming special election to fill Giffords' seat, and the Congressional District 2 election in the fall, Heinz said.

"It is with deep respect for Congresswoman Giffords and her work that I humbly submit my candidacy to the people of southern Arizona," he said in a press release. "Gabby put Southern Arizona before party or ideology and that legacy must be continued."

"The jobs crisis in southern Arizona requires sustained bipartisanship to get things done.  Washington’s partisan warfare has produced nothing but gridlock. My own work as a physician and legislator reflects practical actions to help Arizona, and like Gabby, I want to take the spirit of Tucson to Washington," he said.

"I will use my skills as a doctor and legislator to solve problems and help create jobs in this difficult economy," Heinz said.

Republicans were quick to criticize Heinz on Tuesday.

"Sorry, but calling yourself a moderate doesn’t make it so," said Daniel Scarpinato, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee.

"Rather than running for Congress, Heinz might be better off applying for a job as Obama’s spokesman because he already appears to be doing it free of charge. Heinz has been a leading voice for the government takeover of healthcare, and has consistently stood in the way of any and all efforts to make sure government doesn’t spend more than it takes in," said Scarpinato, a former Tucson resident, in a press release.

The Michigan-born Heinz moved to Tucson in 2003 for his medical residency at the University of Arizona. He practices at Tucson Medical Center.

Meanwhile, plenty of others are rumored to be mulling a run for the now-vacant District 8 seat.

Potential candidates include state Rep. Steve Farley, state Sen. Paula Aboud, pecan-grove owner Nan Walden, and Lisa Lovallo, a Republican who heads the Tucson branch of Cox Communications.

Political circles are buzzing that Giffords may endorse Lovallo's candidacy, an idea that's already generating a good deal of backlash from died-in-the-wool Dems. Even with the former congresswoman's imprimatur, a candidate who donated to Mitt Romney's presidential campaign is likely to face a tough road in a Democratic primary.

Another gambit being pushed by some party insiders is for Ron Barber, the Giffords aide who was also wounded in the Jan. 8 shooting, to run in the special election as a caretaker. The party would then focus on winning the fall CD2 election with another candidate.

Who's not running? Former state House candidate Tim Sultan said Monday that he won't be a candidate.

On the Republican side, state Sen. Frank Antenori announced last week that he's running in both the special and regular election cycles. Tea Party candidate Jesse Kelly, who narrowly lost to  Giffords in 2010, is expected to make his official entry into the race, while UA sportscaster Dave Sitton is also looking at a run.

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