TUCSON, Ariz. — An openly gay Arizona state lawmaker announced Tuesday that he will enter the race to fill the congressional seat vacated by U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who resigned last week.Dr. Matt Heinz, a staff physician at Tucson Medical Center, and a member of the Arizona House of Representatives from the 29th District in Tucson, told reporters that he’s similar to Giffords, politically.
“Moving forward I believe the best thing that we can do is to honor her strength, and conviction, and her leadership, by getting somebody, quickly, because we don’t have much time, into that seat who is going to carry forward in the tradition of moderate, bipartisan, common sense governance that she did so well for Southern Arizona,” Heinz said.
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer (R) declared a special primary election to fill Giffords seat on April 17, with the general election scheduled June 12.
Heinz, 34, said that he plans to run for a full term in the fall in the new Congressional District 2, but said he would dropout of the spring special election race if Giffords’ former district director, Ron Barber, decided to run to finish Gifford’s remaining current term.
“I would be very supportive of (Barber) and in fact I would even direct my staff to gather signatures for him in the special election, at which point I would divert my focus to the Aug. 30 primary,” he said.
Heinz is one of four openly LGBT members of the Arizona state legislature, alongside Sens. Robert Meza (D–Phoenix), Paula Aboud (D–Tucson) and Jack Jackson (D–Window Rock).
According to Arizona media outlets, other potential candidates have indicated they’ll make a decision soon. If they decide to run, they have less than a month to gather signatures to qualify for the ballot.
Heinz said he has not committed to a decision whether or not he’ll resign his state House seat during the race for the U.S. congressional seat — because he is in the final year of his term, Heinz is not required to resign from the state Legislature to run for the Congress.
Giffords, popularly known as “Gabby,” resigned from Congress, citing her continuing efforts toward recovery from the life altering head wound she suffered during an assassination attempt and shooting spree in Tucson last year that left six others dead.