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👋 Top of the Tuesday morning to you all!

🌤️ Today's weather: Mostly sunny with a high of 78. Summer is coming, friends.

Situational awareness: The "Super Barrio Bros" mural from Thursday's "Where in the Valley?" feature is on the northwest corner of 16th and Van Buren streets.

  • Congratulations to Cory S., who was the first of many readers to give us the correct location of what turned out to be a beloved mural.
  • The mural was painted by local artist Angel Diaz, whose artwork has been a fixture around the Valley for years.

💙 It's a great day to contribute to our newsroom by becoming a member!

Today's newsletter is 949 words — a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Sinema's running out of time

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema at the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 12. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema faces an uphill battle and dwindling timeline if she wants to run for re-election.

Why it matters: The first-term senator, who left the Democratic Party in 2022, has remained tight-lipped about her political future.

  • If she decides to run, she'll set up a rare three-way competitive contest in a race that could determine control of the U.S. Senate.

The latest: Signature-filing deadlines for candidates were moved up a week as part of the Legislature's recent fix to avoid election deadline issues, further tightening Sinema's window to qualify for the ballot.

Zoom in: She must file about 42,000 valid signatures from Arizona voters by April 1. That's six times the signatures required for candidates running with a party.

The intrigue: Local consultant Meghan Cox, who has organized major signature campaigns, tells Axios Phoenix that Sinema would realistically need to get 60,000-65,000 signatures to ensure enough are valid.

  • That's possible if the campaign starts in the next two weeks, she says.

1 big number: It would likely cost Sinema's campaign at least $1 million just to qualify for the ballot, Cox says.

Yes, but: Sinema has the money to pull it off with more than $10 million cash on hand. She has about $4 million more than her closest potential competitor, Democratic U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego.

What we're watching: Sinema's challenges don't stop if she makes the ballot.

  • Although independents make up 34% of Arizona voters — more than registered Democrats and almost equal to Republicans — they don't vote as a monolith in the same way party-aligned voters do.
  • Longtime local politico Chuck Coughlin says independent voters' only guaranteed commonality is they don't want to be a member of a party. They have varying degrees of opinions on all candidates and issues.

The bottom line: "It's very difficult to use them as a base," Coughlin tells us.

Spread the word

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect the accurate spelling of Chuck Coughlin's name.

2. 🧐 Independents don't win elections

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

As far as Axios Phoenix has been able to determine, no independent candidate has ever won a state-level or federal office in Arizona.

  • State of play: A review of public records, news reports and the Arizona Capitol Times' Political Almanac has not identified any independent ever elected to the Legislature, statewide office or Congress from Arizona since statehood.

Of note: This did not include county-level offices or formerly elected statewide offices such as tax commissioner.

Zoom in: At least two state lawmakers switched to independent after winning their seats as Democrats, and an independent was appointed to replace one who resigned, but none was ever elected as an independent.

But, but, but: Coles Bashford, a former Republican governor of Wisconsin, was elected as an independent to be a non-voting U.S. House delegate from the Arizona Territory in 1866.

Between the lines: Former Republican Rep. Tom O'Halleran came close to becoming the first independent elected to the Legislature in 2014, the Arizona Capitol Times reported.

  • He ran as an independent in a two-way state Senate race against Republican Sylvia Allen in northern Arizona but narrowly lost.

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3. 🤖 New home search tool

Photo: Courtesy of Tomo

Mortgage platform Tomo is rolling out a new AI-powered home search portal today, and metro Phoenix is among the first markets to test it.

Why it matters: As more real estate marketplaces integrate AI into their platforms, searching for homes could become a lot faster and easier.

Details: Former Zillow exec and Tomo co-founder Greg Schwartz developed the platform so consumers could search for homes based on specific wants — beyond the number of beds and baths — and shop more like savvy investors.

Axios' Brianna Crane tested the tool in the Seattle area and found it was capable of picking up on specific preferences. She plugged in: "Home with a view of Lake Washington, modern design, a rooftop deck, and it's really important for me to have a space to WFH. Oh, the kids love a backyard."

  • More than 300 listing matches came up, clearly tagged with which boxes the home checked.

Our thought bubble: This machine's ability to play matchmaker and share negotiating tips comes at an interesting time, as real estate commissions — and agent value — are top of mind for consumers.

Tell a home buyer

4. Chips & salsa: Cats dominate Sun Devils

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

🏀 UofA men's basketball pummeled ASU 105-60 Saturday at home, the largest margin of victory in a game against the Sun Devils. (Sports360az)

🏒 The NHL Players Association is irked at Arizona Coyotes' leadership for not keeping it apprised of plans to purchase land in north Phoenix for a new arena.

  • Meanwhile, local trade unions — which helped kill the team's Tempe arena proposal — are pushing for 100% union labor to construct the project. The team has so far refused. (Front Office Sports)

🛣️ An extension of State Route 24, which proponents say is necessary to alleviate traffic in fast-growing Queen Creek, could be delayed because of the state's budget deficit. (AZcentral)

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5. Bite Club: Lom Wong's unique Thai experience

Photo: Jeremy Duda/Axios

Jeremy here. Thai is one of my favorite kinds of cuisine, and after hearing the buzz about Lom Wong, I ordered takeout from there for Valentine's Day.

Catch up quick: Lom Wong opened in Roosevelt Row in 2022.

  • According to Esquire, a third of the menu is inspired by northern Thailand; a third from central Thailand; and a third contains "seldom seen" specialties from the Moklen tribe in southern Thailand.

What we ordered: Every review I've seen touted the Ae Kan Khlak Ti, a Moklen sea bass curry, so I gave it a try.

  • I also went with the Boo Pad Pong Garee, a stir-fried crab dish; the Gai Tawt Won Pen crispy fried chicken wings; and the Pad Kwang Toon, stir-fried bok choi and tofu.

The verdict: It was like no Thai food I've ever had, and in a great way.

Spread the good news

🛣️ Jeremy had a great time visiting his dad and stepmom in Las Vegas over the long weekend.

🤒 Jessica nursed a cold and stomach bug all weekend. What is with all the germs going around?

This newsletter was edited by Emma Hurt and copy edited by Jay Bennett.

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