Ruben Gallego is running to replace Kirsten Sinema in the Arizona Senate

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Opinion

Rep. Ruben Gallego announced Monday that he will run for U.S. Senate in Arizona, setting up a potential three-way race in a battleground state in 2024 that threatens independent Sen. Kirsten Sinema’s seat.

Gallego, a Navy veteran who has served in the House since 2015, announced his candidacy in English and Spanish videos highlighting his military service and first-generation American experience.

“The rich and powerful don’t need more lawyers,” Gallego said in a video showing him talking to veterans at Guadalupe American Legion Post 124. for them, the fighter is still deciding between the food and utilities he needs.

Gallego also took direct aim at Sinema in a statement, saying he “left Arizona” and “repeatedly broke his promises and fought for the interests of big pharma and Wall Street at our expense.” .

On December 9, Arizona State Senator Kirsten Sinema announced that she would switch her party affiliation from Democratic to Independent. (Video: Blair Guild/Washington Post)

The announcement comes a month after Sinema shocked Washington Democrats by leaving the party and registering as an independent, calling the change “a reflection of who I’ve always been.” Sinema, a moderate first-term lawmaker who was at the center of several bipartisan deals in the Senate last year, has yet to announce that he will seek re-election. His office declined to comment on Gallego’s announcement.

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Gallego, who has more than $1 million in cash on hand, became the first Democrat to announce a run in Arizona and the first presumptive Democratic nominee after another potential candidate, Greg Stanton (D-Arizona). published last week he would not seek the office. Gallego’s campaign plans to focus heavily on mobilizing the state’s Latino and youth vote. The congressman, if elected, would be the state’s first Latino senator.

Gallego’s candidacy poses a dilemma for national Democrats, who must choose whether to devote their considerable resources to supporting a Democratic candidate for the seat or an independent incumbent who votes predominantly Democratic but is unpopular with many voters across the country. In previous races, the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee (DSCC) has favored independents who side with Democrats. The 2024 map to retain the Senate majority is a brutal map for Democrats defending 23 seats, and a three-way race in a must-win state adds to their headaches.

“Arizona is in a Democratic civil war,” said Philip Letsu, a spokesman for the Republican National Senate Committee. “[Senate Majority Leader] Chuck Schumer has a choice: stick with radical Ruben Gallego on open borders or support his incumbent, Sen. Kirsten Sinema.

DSCC spokeswoman Nora Keefe declined to comment on who the organization supports. “Over the last three consecutive election cycles, Republicans have suffered Senate losses in Arizona, and we are confident that we will stop Republicans from filling the Senate seat,” he said in a statement. .

Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), the Senate majority whip, called it “too early” to decide whether he would support Gallego or stick with Cinema if he runs for re-election Monday.

Sinema, who has an $8 million war chest, has drawn ire from Democrats after several rifts with the party, including his opposition to fighting a filibuster in the Senate to pass more legislation with 50 votes. But he played a key role in negotiating bipartisan legislation that became law over the past two years, including a gun control bill, a measure protecting same-sex couples, and an infrastructure investment measure.

Gallego did not hide his intention to run for the Senate Criticizing Sinema, accusing him of wanting the Democrats to lose the midterm elections.

“I visited the state and the country. Donate, fundraise and encourage people to get out and vote, I didn’t see you anywhere @SenatorSinema,” he tweeted shortly after appearing at the McConnell Center in Washington last fall. with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in Louisville.

Strategists familiar with Gallego’s senatorial campaign, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal strategy, he says it stems from his upbringing in poverty and his desire to help those in similar situations, unlike Sinema’s record in the Senate, where his opposition helped reduce the $3.5 trillion Social Security bill. In the announcement video, Gallego also talks about his struggle with PTSD after serving in the Marines and the challenges of raising his children as a single mother on a secretary’s salary.

Sinema declined to comment on Gallego’s candidacy when asked on a local radio show last Friday, saying Arizonans want a “break” from politics after the midterms, and he has focused on immigration and other issues. “I’m not thinking or talking about the election right now, but others are. I focus on work,” he said.

Republicans are also eyeing a possible three-way race, a scenario some conservative strategists say could make the race easier for Republicans. to find Soon after Gallego’s announcement, GOP groups began attacking him as too liberal for the state. Blake Masters, Kari Lake and Karrin Taylor Robeson — all unsuccessfully seeking statewide offices in 2022 — are considering running, The Washington Post previously reported.

Democrats saw Sinema’s decision to run as an independent as politically strategic after some polls showed Sinema might struggle to beat Gallego in the Democratic primary. His way to re-election as an independent would be difficult and would rely on building a coalition of moderate Republicans, independents and Democrats.

Gallego’s team decided to jump into the race early to boost his name recognition in Arizona, particularly among the growing Hispanic community, according to a person familiar with his strategy. Gallego, who oversaw the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’s fundraising campaign this past cycle, criticized Democrats for their late involvement in the community and their adoption of language such as the term “Latinx,” which does not resonate with the majority of Hispanic voters.

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