Arizona Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego announced Monday that he will seek the Senate nomination, seeking to remove one-time Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema, who was both a must-have vote and a frustration to the party she left last month.
“The problem isn’t that Senator Sinema gave up on the Democratic Party — it’s that she gave up on Arizona,” Gallego said, referring to Sinema’s announcement in December that she would become an independent.
“She repeatedly broke her word and fought for the interests of Big Pharma and Wall Street at our expense. I ran for the United States Senate because the rich and powerful no longer need any advocates in Washington — but the families who do “Affordable groceries. As a Marine, I never backed down from a fight, and in the Senate, I will work to ensure that every Arizonan has the same opportunities that I have had in the American Dream,” Gallego said in a statement.
Sinema has been a source of ire for Democrats, all but mocking the party that elected her because she casts votes in major legislation that requires every Democratic vote to pass in a deeply divided chamber. But Sinema also had the most important vote: the majority leader vote, run by Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York.
Sinema is not running primaries against Republicans in the Senate and has not committed to primaries against former fellow Democrats. However, Sinema has not participated in the Democratic caucus in the past, where lawmakers discuss policy and strategy.
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Sinema has cast himself as the Democratic version of the late Republican Sen. John McCain, another Arizonan who would oppose his own party on an issue he considers beyond politics. But Sinema didn’t build the kind of goodwill with Arizona voters during her first term to get through the setback that Arizona war hero and beloved figure McCain survived.
That fueled a campaign to defeat Sinema by progressive Democrats, who see Sinema as an unreliable ally when it comes to the Democratic agenda in Congress. After announcing his switch from the Democratic Party to the Independent, Sinema filed papers in December to run for re-election as an Independent.
In ads in English and Spanish, Gallego touted his journey from being the son of an impoverished immigrant mother and having to be a teenage father figure to his three siblings because his father was absent, to getting into Harvard and Become a Member Congress.
Democrats already have a very challenging 2024 Senate election map. Democrats must defend 23 of the 34 up for grabs. That includes seats now held by the increasingly red Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, one of the most reliably Republican states in the country.
Manchin — another Democrat who blocked the party’s legislation by refusing to vote and trying to negotiate a watered-down version — recently said he would support Sinema’s re-election.
Arizona has been pivoting toward the Democratic Party of late, in large part because of support from Hispanic voters, which offers Democrats a growing regional opportunity in the Southwest. President Joe Biden won the Grand Canyon state in 2020, the first time a Democratic presidential nominee has won the state since 1996.
In addition, Democratic Senator Mark Kelly won re-election in November, and Democrat Katie Hobbs narrowly defeated Republican candidate Carrie Lake to win the governorship from Republicans.
Gallego is seeking to become the first Hispanic senator from Arizona, a state where 30 percent of the population and 20 percent of its voters are Latino.
Arizona is critical for Democrats to maintain a majority, and a divided race could jeopardize their hold on the seat. Lake lost a lawsuit in December challenging her loss in the gubernatorial race and is reportedly considering a run for the Senate seat.
The anti-Sinema crowd immediately cheered the new contestant.
“We’re thrilled to now have a Democratic candidate in this race ready to take on Kyrsten Sinema and win,” Sacha Haworth, spokeswoman for Arizona’s 2024 PAC to Replace Sinema campaign, said in a statement.
Republicans also welcome Gallego to run and could lose the Senate seat to Republicans in 2024 if the Democratic vote is divided.
“Democratic civil war is on in Arizona. Chuck Schumer has a choice: side with open border activist Ruben Gallego, or support his incumbent, Sen. Kirsten Sinema.” Philip Lesso, spokesman for the National Republican Senate Committee, said in a statement.