Rep. Ruben Gallego becomes first major candidate to challenge Sinema in Senate race

Sinema may be campaigning early as some fellow Democrats are urging Ruben Gallego to challenge her in the 2024 primary.
Published: Jan. 23, 2023 at 6:23 AM MST|Updated: Jan. 23, 2023 at 5:51 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5/AP) -- Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego will be the first candidate to challenge now-independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema.

A video announcement was posted early Monday morning on social media, matching earlier reports that he would launch the campaign this week.

“I have been deeply humbled by the encouragement I have received from the people of Arizona, and today I am answering the call to serve,” said Rep. Ruben Gallego. “The problem isn’t that Senator Sinema abandoned the Democratic Party – it’s that she’s abandoned Arizona. She’s repeatedly broken her promises, and fought for the interests of big pharma and Wall Street at our expense. I’m running for the U.S. Senate because the rich and the powerful don’t need any more advocates in Washington – but families who can’t afford groceries do. As a Marine, I never back down from a fight, and in the Senate I’ll fight to make sure every Arizonan has the same chance that I had at the American Dream.”

Rep. Ruben Gallego

“I’m better for this job than Kyrsten Sinema because I haven’t forgotten where I came from,” Gallego told The Associated Press. “I think she clearly has forgotten where she came from. Instead of meeting with the people that need help, she meets with the people that are already powerful.” The representative announced he’ll be kicking off his campaign with events in Tucson and Phoenix on Saturday, and on Sunday, he plans to host events in Flagstaff, Whiteriver, and a meet and greet on the Navajo Nation.

Gallego, a 43-year-old military veteran first elected to Congress in 2014, had made no secret of his interest in challenging Sinema, a longtime rival in Arizona politics who has been a roadblock and irritant to Democrats during Joe Biden’s presidency. Gallego has been billed as “progressive” and “outspoken,” leading many in the Democratic Party to believe that he could be a frontrunner to challenge Sinema. The announcement should poise Gallego as an “early frontrunner” in the race.

Gallego said that his background working on the defense budget, chairman of intel and special operations as well as working with the Indigenous communities of Arizona makes him an ideal candidate. “My job is to talk to the voters of Arizona, to meet with them where they are,” Rep. Gallego said. “I hope that she’ll [Sinema will] try to do that, she hasn’t done that for the last 3 years, but I bet if she actually did she’d get a very strong opinion about where they [the voters] feel she’s been working.”

As for Rep. Gallego’s possible open seat, one who is being rumored are Laura Pastor, daughter of former Rep. Ed Pastor. Steve Gallardo, Maricopa County Supervisor, confirmed that he will not be considering running for the seat.

Although no Republican has entered the race, potential contenders include former gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, former U.S. Senate candidate Blake Masters and Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb — all of whom are closely aligned with former President Donald Trump. Karrin Taylor Robson, a housing developer who lost to Lake in last year’s primary, and former Gov. Doug Ducey are also possible contenders.

Sinema also has yet to announce whether she will seek reelection in 2024 after recently departing with the Democratic party. Sinema also said she won’t caucus with Republicans. Arizona’s Family also recently reported that Rep. Greg Staton wouldn’t place a bid, saying in part, “now is not the right time for me to run.”

With tough and expensive races on the horizon, it remains unclear just how firmly the Democratic establishment and major donors will line up against Sinema, who has voted for most Democratic legislation even as she’s stood in the way of major priorities for the White House, congressional leaders, and the progressive movement.

“I’m assuming that they will be with us because we are going to run the winning campaign and because at the end of the day, if you look at where Arizonans are going to be, they’re going to be with us and not with her,” Gallego told the AP.

A spokesperson for Sinema, Hannah Hurley, declined to comment on Gallego’s announcement. Arizona’s Family previously reported that Gallego had brought in a political team to lead online fundraising and organizing for a potential Senate bid. Two of those members were key players in Sen. Mark Kelly’s 2022 Senate Campaign.