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McSally to seek U.S. Senate seat, fellow Republicans say

She hasn't yet made a formal announcement or filed campaign paperwork, but U.S. Rep. Martha McSally has told her GOP colleagues that she plans to seek the Senate seat being vacated by U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake. Rep. David Schweikert told the Associated Press that McSally is poised to run.

McSally and her staff have dodged questions from reporters about the Senate race.

Flake announced last month 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.

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 Ann Kirkpatrick, a former Flagstaff congresswoman who took on U.S. Sen. John McCain last year.

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

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.

Besides Ward and now likely McSally, other Republicans who may seek Flake's seat are State Treasurer Jeff DeWit and former Arizona State Republican Chairman Robert Graham. Complicating the political calculus is the state of McCain's health; he was diagnosed earlier this year with an aggressive and often deadly form of brain cancer.

On the Democratic side, U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, who represents the Tempe area, is leading a group of contenders. She faces activist Deedra Abboud and a handful of political unknowns in the Democratic primary to determine who will run for Flake's seat.

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Joshua Pearson/TucsonSentinel.com

McSally on election night, 2014.