January 23, 2023

Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego on Monday became the first major candidate to announce a 2024 campaign for the Arizona Senate seat held by Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat-turned-independent who has yet to reveal her own plans.

Gallego, who would be the Grand Canyon State’s first Latino senator, uses his kickoff video to talk about how his single mother struggled to raise her four children. The congressman goes on to describe his experience serving with the Marines in Iraq, where his unit suffered heavy casualties.

“You never fully come back from the war,” said Gallego, “Fighting through PTSD. There were some very low moments in my life. But I still didn’t give up hope and pushed forward.” He finishes by going after Sinema and her extensive ties to special interests, declaring, “If you’re more likely to be meeting with the powerful than the powerless, you’re doing this job incorrectly.”

Sinema bolted the Democratic Party last month, and while some observers have speculated that she’d give Republicans a huge boost should she run again by siphoning off Democratic voters, it remains to be seen just how she’d impact the general election. The Democratic firm Civiqs released numbers the day she became an independent that showed that Democrats already gave her a horrific 5-82 score before even before she jumped ship: Republicans and independents, by contrast, gave her 25-45 and 25-56 ratings.

Gallego himself also publicized an internal from Public Policy Polling soon afterwards arguing that, while a Sinema campaign could make his task more difficult, she’d hardly ensure an automatic Republican pickup. The survey found Republican Kari Lake, an election conspiracy theorist who is still waging a court battle to overturn her defeat in last year’s race for governor, edging out Gallego 41-40 in a hypothetical contest, with Sinema grabbing 13%; when the incumbent was left out, however, Gallego led Lake 48-47.

The Democratic firm Blueprint Polling, which did not poll for a client, also found Lake leading Gallego 36-32 as Sinema took 14%, but it did not release numbers testing a matchup without the senator.

Gallego had been preparing to challenge Sinema for renomination before she became an independent, and no other notable Democrats appear to be interested in running here. Fellow Rep. Greg Stanton announced last week that he’d stay out of the Senate race, and while some political observers have mentioned Tucson Mayor Regina Romero as a possible contender, she hasn’t said anything about taking on Sinema. Axios also writes that Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, who used to be married to the congressman, says “she does not intend to run for the Arizona Senate seat or for Ruben's House seat.”

Things are far more volatile on the Republican side, where Lake has so far attracted more attention than any other potential contender. Unnamed sources told CNN last week that Lake, who continues to pretend that she beat now-Gov. Katie Hobbs, won’t make up her mind about a Senate run “until after her court case is completed.” Gallego responded by sarcastically tweeting, “Arizona has a very strict resign to run law. It’s not possible for her to be Arizona’s shadow governor and a Senate candidate at the same time.”

One of Lake’s allies and fellow far-right politicians, Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb, has also been mulling over a Senate bid, and his team recently said he’d “make a decision in early 2023.” Another Republican who has expressed interest is Blake Masters, who last year waged a widely-panned campaign for Arizona’s other Senate seat that ended in a 51-45 defeat against Democratic incumbent Mark Kelly. Wealthy businessman Jim Lamon, who lost the primary to Masters, also has expressed interest in another try.

Former state Board of Regents member Karrin Taylor Robson, who narrowly lost her primary to Lake last year despite having outgoing Gov. Doug Ducey’s endorsement, also has not ruled out a Senate campaign. Ducey unequivocally said just before Christmas he was "not running for the United States Senate" and that "it's not something I'm considering," though Utah Sen. Mitt Romney didn’t give up on trying to persuade him otherwise. Last week, however, the Washington Post reported that Ducey “has not changed his mind on the matter.”

Republished with permission from Daily Kos.

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