As popular Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain seeks a sixth term in the U.S. Senate, a potential Democratic opponent today emerged after Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, a three-term lawmaker from Flagstaff, entered the race.

“In Arizona we tell it straight, so let’s get right to it,” Kirkpatrick said in a campaign video announcement. “I’m announcing my candidacy for the United States Senate. I love this state.”

McCain, who would turn 80 before Election Day, is unlikely to draw any Republican House members into a primary — but facing off against Kirkpatrick, who is well-funded, could possibly prove to be a tough race for the former Republican presidential nominee.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) now has a Democratic challenger for 2016: Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ).

Roll Call first reported Kirkpatrick’s plans on Monday. Kirkpatrick’s decision opens up her old congressional district, which leans Republican and Mitt Romney won with a three-point margin in 2012.

McCain is the favored as the frontrunner in the Arizona Senate race, which Rothernberg & Gonzalez Political Report says favors Republican.

For months, there have been rumblings of a conservative primary challenge to McCain. A Public Policy Polling survey in early May found Rep. David Schweikert (R-AZ) running just one point behind McCain, while Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) polled two points behind the senator and state Sen. Kelli Ward (R) trailing McCain 44 percent to 31 percent.

The Democrats have found a youthful alternative to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.: Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, D-Ariz., age 65.

Kirkpatrick is younger than both Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton and fresh political phenomenon Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. More significantly, assuming McCain wins his primary he will be 80 by the time the November 2016 election rolls around. That’s two years older than McCain’s predecessor Barry Goldwater was when he retired from the Senate.

Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Ariz.) announced Tuesday she is running in the 2016 race for the U.S. Senate in Arizona.

“I love this state, and I’ve worked hard all my life to put Arizona first,” Kirkpatrick said in a statement. “From the timber towns of the White Mountains to the tech hubs of Phoenix and Tucson, we are working to build a strong, diverse economy. I’m fighting for Arizona every single day, and I’d be humbled to represent our state in the United States Senate.”

Kirkpatrick, a former prosecutor and small-business owner, is aiming for the seat currently held by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who has been in the U.S. Senate since 1986. McCain announced in April he would run for re-election in 2016.

Democratic Arizona Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick said Tuesday she will challenge Republican John McCain for his Senate seat next year, launching an uphill bid to unseat the five-term senator in the GOP-leaning state.

Kirkpatrick is serving her third House term in a district she has won narrowly. She was already being targeted by Republicans for what was expected to be her House re-election bid in 2016.

McCain was his party’s unsuccessful 2008 presidential candidate, losing to Barack Obama. A Navy flier who was held prisoner during the Vietnam War, McCain has long been one of his party’s most influential voices on military and foreign policy issues and is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Arizona Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick will challenge Republican Sen. John McCain, according to a source with knowledge of Kirkpatrick’s plans, giving Democrats a top recruit and a potential pickup opportunity.

Kirkpatrick made calls Monday to inform people of her plans, the source told CQ Roll Call. Her bid also opens up Arizona’s 1st District, a GOP-leaning seat spanning the northeast quadrant of the state.

An hour after this story was published, Kirkpatrick sent out an email making it official. “I love this state, and I’ve worked hard all my life to put Arizona first,” she said in a video. “From the timber towns of the White Mountains to the tech hubs of Phoenix and Tucson, we are working to build a strong, diverse economy. I’m fighting for Arizona every single day, and I’d be humbled to represent our state in the United States Senate.”

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