State Rep. Meg Burton-Cahill, D-Tempe, said she will not seek a fourth term in the House, but could take a run at the Senate in the highly competitive District 17.
Burton-Cahill said Thursday she is forming an exploratory committee to look at running for the seat left open by Sen. Harry Mitchell, a Democrat, who cannot run again because of term limits.
"I’ll have a better idea about my plans once the next session begins," Burton-Cahill said, referring to the Legislature which meets in January.
If she decides to run for the higher office, Burton-Cahill would most likely challenge former Republican state Rep. Mark Thompson, who said he intends to run.
In the 2004 general election, Burton-Cahill soundly defeated Thompson. Thompson, who was running as an incumbent, placed last in the four-person race.
But with Mitchell unable to run again, some political experts are saying the once solidly Democratic seat could be vulnerable.
"District 17 is the most competitive district in the state," said Nathan Sproul, a Republican political consultant.
He said without Mitchell, Democrats lose a lot of name recognition, leaving the seat open to a Republican victory. In August, Mitchell was elected president of the Arizona Democratic Party.
The District 17 race is expected to be one of the most watched races in the state as Republicans look to elect enough senators to override any vetoes by Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano.
Republicans currently have 18 members in the Senate, but need 20 to override a veto. The district, which covers Tempe and parts of Scottsdale, is one of two competitive districts in which incumbent Democrats are not running, Sproul said. The other, he said, is District 5 in Yuma.
Burton-Cahill’s decision not to run for the House could leave her party vulnerable there. Burton-Cahill said she will be endorsing Edward Ableser to succeed her in 2006. Ableser switched to the Democratic Party in 2004 shortly before running for the District 17 House race.
Rep. Laura Knaperek, R-Tempe, who holds the other District 17 seat, said a fiscally conservative candidate could win the race.