Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) officially announced Monday morning that he will challenge Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) in 2024.
In a video posted online, he pitched himself as the embodiment of the American dream: growing up poor with a struggling, immigrant, single mother only to make it to Harvard, then to Iraq with the Marines and finally, to Congress.
He mentions Sinema by name in the video only once, but alludes to her in ways that make clear the contrast he plans to draw.
“There is no lobbyist for working families,” he quips, a reference to the criticism that she’s most at home with special interest groups and wealthy donors.
“If you’re more likely to be meeting with the powerful than the powerless, you’re doing this job incorrectly,” he adds.
In a fundraising blast later Monday morning, he said that: “For too long, Senator Sinema has used her position of power to help those who already have it all. She has stood in the way of raising the minimum wage, protecting voting rights, lowering the cost of prescription drugs, and more.”
Sinema has not officially announced that she will run for reelection, though she has filed paperwork to run as an independent.
That party switch, which she announced last month, changed little functionally about the power balance in the Senate. She still caucuses with the Democrats.
But it created a high-stakes game of chicken for the critical seat in 2024, when Democrats will face a daunting map, having to defend in West Virginia, Montana and Ohio along with the usual battleground culprits of Pennsylvania, Nevada and newly-open Michigan (plus Arizona). The toughest seat Republicans have to defend is far less likely to swing: Sen. Rick Scott’s (R-FL).
Sinema’s switch allowed her to avoid a primary challenge, which Gallego was widely expected to mount. It also made it so that if Democrats ran Gallego or anyone else, there’d be a significant risk that she and that Democrat split votes of the Democratic base, giving the Republican candidate a glide path to the seat.
Gallego said Monday on Arizona radio station KTAR News that Sinema’s party switch “changed the dynamic” in terms of timing his announcement, which comes over a year and a half before the election.
He also dismissed a question about if he’s too liberal for the seat, waving off “stupid labels.” He added that every Democrat “in the last three cycles” has been characterized as too lefty, and still managed to win. If Sinema does run, she’ll likely seize upon that narrative, trying to depict herself as the centrist alternative.