The Washington Times - February 10, 2011, 03:42PM

The news that Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl will step down at the end of his third term next year, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano’s name immediately shot to the top of the list of potential Democrats who could challenge for the open seat.

She’s the most recognized Democrat in the state and, as a former Arizona governor and attorney general, she’s already run several successful statewide campaigns.

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But while a recent poll indicates that Napolitano may be the Democrats’ best bet, it’s not by much.

Public Policy Polling last month asked Arizona voters to rank several potential Democrats in a hypothetical race against Kyl, and in the survey, Napolitano barely outperformed the Democratic field.

And all of the Democrats, Napolitano included, polled well behind Kyl.

In a hypothetical race against Kyl, Napolitano polled 41 percent to Kyl’s 53 percent.

Among prospective Democrats mentioned in the poll, the closest challenger to Napolitano was former Phoenix mayor and Arizona attorney general Terry Goddard, who polled 40 percent.

The poll didn’t include Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was widely considered a potential Senate candidate before she suffered serious injury in an assasination attempt. The rapid progress of her recovery, however, has fueled speculation that she is still in the mix, as well.