- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 20, 2014

PHOENIX (AP) - State Sen. Steve Gallardo on Tuesday dropped his bid to replace Rep. Ed Pastor in Arizona’s 7th Congressional District, saying he will instead run for Maricopa County supervisor.

Gallardo said he was urged by supporters to change course after Sen. Anna Tovar announced last week that she would not seek the county post now held by Mary Rose Wilcox.

Gallardo was set to face Wilcox and former Rep. Ruben Gallego in the 7th District Democratic primary.

The 7th District is a Democratic stronghold in south and west Phoenix. Pastor’s retirement brought strong interest from Democrats who want to win the safe congressional seat.

Wilcox’s current seat is also strongly Democratic, and having two high-profile seats available for ambitious party members set off a rush to fill the vacancies among high-profile party politicians.

Gallardo is minority whip in the state Senate, and Tovar is minority leader. Tovar cited the need to focus on her family and maintaining her own health as reasons to sit out the 2015 election. She’s had two bone marrow transplants more than a decade ago to treat leukemia.

Gallardo will have about a week to collect approximately 500 signatures and has started to collect them. He can’t officially file until the seat becomes vacant, because Wilcox’s term does not end this year.

Wilcox said she plans to resign from her current seat Friday and file for the 7th District seat Monday. The resignation is required under the state’s resign-to-run law.

“I’ll been elected in that district 11 times. I’ve very fortunately that the supervisorial district and even my old city council (overlaps) this congressional district,” Wilcox said. “I just walk the streets, I know all the neighbors. They’ve been really, really supportive.”

Others who have said they are considering running for Wilcox’s 5th District seat include Avondale Mayor Marie Rogers and former Phoenix councilman Michael Johnson.

Gallardo revealed in March that he is gay, saying he was prompted by the controversy over a proposed law, Senate Bill 1062, that critics said would have allowed businesses to refuse service to gays based on religious beliefs. Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed the bill in February.

Gallardo, 45, worked for the Maricopa County Elections Department for 14 years and then was elected to the Arizona House of Representatives in 2002. He moved to the Senate in 2010, and also serves on a local school board.

He’s been a political consultant since 2009.

“I believe whoever’s elected in Congressional District 7, we’re going to have a good candidate that’s going to represent the people well,” Gallardo said. “What was missing was strong leadership or a strong candidate on the county level.

Gallardo said he will hold Sheriff Joe Arpaio accountable, propose fair election procedures to the Legislature and work to ensure the southwestern part of Maricopa County gets the resources it needs.

Both Gallego and Wilcox have strong support in south Phoenix, Gallardo said, while he had the western part of the 7th Congressional District locked up. The district, heavily Hispanic, requires an effective get-out-the-vote campaign for a candidate to win.

“Whoever’s ground game is better will win,” Gallardo said. “The person who knocks on more doors, the person who speaks to more voters, is the one who is going to definitely have a huge advantage.”

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