Rep. Gallego’s Senate bid leaves Democrats with multiple questions about who to support and at what cost

Published: Jan. 30, 2023 at 1:30 PM AKST
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Rep. Ruben Gallego’s (D-Ariz.) announcement of his candidacy for Senate has left Democrats with multiple questions about whether to back him or their incumbent who left the party.

Both the Senate Majority Leader and Senate Minority Leader weighed in last week.

“It’s much too early to make a decision,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) .

“It is a big dilemma for the Senate Democratic Majority,” said Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)

In Gallego’s campaign video, he went after incumbent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) directly by saying, “I’m sorry that politicians have let you down. But I’m going to change that.”

Gallego has represented the Phoenix area in the House since 2014. He is the first Democrat to get into Arizona’s U.S. Senate race. Sinema, who ran and won as a Democrat in 2018, became an independent last December. She has not said if she will run in 2024. If she does, she would not face a primary opponent and could split votes with a Democrat like Gallego in the general election.

Navin Nayak, the President of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, said everyone recognizes what is at stake.

“I really hope and expect that no one will risk, you know, this seat making the difference in terms of Mitch McConnell actually being in charge of the U.S. Senate,” said Nayak.

Democrats hold a 51-seat majority now because Sinema and two other independents typically vote with them. However, those three and 20 other seats occupied by Democrats are among 34 up for grabs in 2024.

So far, no Republicans have announced they are running in Arizona, but all eyes are on failed gubernatorial and senatorial candidates Kari Lake and Blake Masters.

Republican strategist Amy Tarkanian says if either run, they cannot try the same strategy twice.

“They’re gonna have to a ‘Come to Jesus’ moment and they’re gonna have to regroup and maybe rebrand themselves and surround themselves maybe with better campaign staff, better campaign messaging,” said Tarkanian. “Otherwise, I think you’re gonna see the democrat or the independent do fairly well.”

Gallego’s campaign says it have already raised more than $1 million. A December Morning Consult poll showed most democrats do not approve of the job Sinema is doing since she decided to leave the party.