Catherine Miranda admits she’s facing a tough campaign.

The Democratic state senator is challenging U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego, a two-term incumbent Democrat who has made a name for himself as a prominent critic of President Donald Trump.

Miranda is less forthcoming about why she’s chosen to do so.

She doesn’t completely bat down suggestions that U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., may have played a role, saying just she’s had “no contact with Pelosi.” And Miranda also doesn’t declare victory is at hand in next week’s primary in the Democrat-dominated, Phoenix-based 7th Congressional District.

“It’s been in the making for several years,” she said in an interview. “I’m from this district and my ultimate goal is to get to Congress.”

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Miranda is a moderate running in a district where Democrats have a 31 percentage point registration advantage, the most in Arizona.

To many Democrats, she is remembered for supporting Republican Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey’s first budget in 2015, a spending plan that included a provision that limited lifetime welfare aid to one year, the shortest duration in the nation at the time.

She also switched her view on abortion rights, now holding a more restrictive position.

With no Republican challengers on the ballot in November, Gallego is treating Miranda as though she is one.

“The district is very progressive, and (the reason) I believe that there is no Republican running, is because there is a Republican running — it’s Catherine Miranda,” Gallego said.

Miranda has tried to make her background a priority for voters.

She was born and raised in the district, which runs from southern Glendale to downtown Phoenix and reaches to South Mountain Park. Before joining the Arizona Legislature, she was a teacher, an assistant principal and board member of the Roosevelt School District.

Gallego, who won a second term by 50 percentage points, is a Chicago native, a Marine Corps veteran who served in Iraq and also served in the statehouse.

Financially, the race is a mismatch: She raised $28,000 through June and still hasn’t filed a report on how much she had earlier this month. Gallego has taken in $837,000.

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Not surprisingly, Gallego has also piled up endorsements in the race.

His campaign touts endorsements from the Arizona chapter of the AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest federation of unions; the Human Rights Campaign, Planned Parenthood and campaigns to prevent gun violence.

He also has the backing of former U.S. Rep. Ed Pastor, the veteran Democrat who represented the area in Washington for 24 years.

Miranda dismisses such loyalties.

“I haven’t been endorsed. I haven’t even (sought) endorsements, as a candidate that is not the incumbent,” she said. “He has the endorsements.”

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Others say the one-sided endorsements reflect the district’s views of Miranda, especially compared with Gallego.

“I’m hearing that a lot from active Democrats, from folks who are active with Planned Parenthood, from gay activists — she has managed to alienate all of them,” said Alfredo Gutiérrez, a former state legislator and resident of the district.

Gutiérrez called her a “fairly right-wing” Democrat. George Khalaf, a GOP political analyst, said some Republican voters might vote for Miranda.

Miranda defends her more moderate views as the way to reduce polarization in Washington.

If she gets there, Miranda said her first step would be to request a meeting with Betsy DeVos, Trump’s Department of Education secretary. DeVos supports alternatives to public district schools, something Miranda views as an “attack” on public education.

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Gallego ticks off his priorities for a third term, from passing legal protections for those who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children to managing health-care costs and student-loan debt to increasing the minimum wage.

“Because of the money differential, I have to think she is the underdog, but she is a very well-known entity in the district,” said Barry Dill, a political analyst with First Strategic. “In fact, she flirted with running … four years ago when Congressman Pastor retired, so she has a good name.”

Reach the reporter at [email protected]. Follow on Twitter: @PamReporting.

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