Even before Arizona's Sen. Kyrsten Sinema switched her party affiliation from Democrat to Independent, Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) was being floated as a primary challenger for the 2024 Senate race. Such chatter has not been unfounded, as he has hinted at a run while throwing his potential challenger under the bus. That run is looking even more certain now, according to an early Friday report from Newsweek's Adrian Carrasquillo.
According to "three sources briefed by the campaign," Gallego is expected to make the announcement via a video announcement in both English and Spanish that was shot in his home district of Arizona's 3rd Congressional District.
Carrasquillo's report also mentions praise for Gallego from Alejandra Gomez, the co-executive director of LUCHA Arizona. What's not mentioned is how LUCHA Arizona was the group that chased Sinema into a bathroom to confront her in October 2021 about immigration and the Build Back Better Act.
A Friday afternoon POLITICO report from Burgess Everett and Elena Schneider noted the expected announcement could come as soon as Monday, "according to two people familiar with his plans."
Although the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) did not immediately reply to POLITICO for comment, the rift is nevertheless clear:
A clash between Gallego and Sinema would inevitably turn chaotic and become one of the most highest-profile races in the country, pitting a 43-year-old former Marine and combat veteran against a 46-year-old triathlete and bipartisan deal-cutter. Sinema, in 2018, became the first Democrat to win a Senate race in the state in three decades, but Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) has won two races since with a more progressive record, suggesting there are multiple pathways for the party to win in the state.
However, Gallego is unlikely to have uniform Democratic backing across the country, at least until Sinema makes a decision. Sinema has not yet decided whether to run for reelection and recently switched her party affiliation, though she essentially still caucuses with the Democrats.
That puts the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and others in the caucus in an awkward position, as they determine whether to consider her an incumbent they have to defend. She’s one of three independent senators who caucuses with the Democrats.
Senate races for 2024 have been in the news quite a bit this week when it comes to a 2024 map that could prove to be particularly tricky for the Democrats. On Monday, Arizona was included as one of the eight most likely states to flip by The Hill, with all eight likely favoring Republicans. In the case of Arizona, it's possible that Sinema as an Independent in the mix along with Gallego, or another Democrat, could split the ticket and favor a Republican candidate.
As Carrasquillo said about a three-way race:
If the election unfolds as a three-way race, Gallego's campaign is looking to make a strong push to activate the Latino vote in Arizona, where one-third of the state is Hispanic. The campaign has brought on Chuck Rocha as a senior advisor, the architect of Bernie Sanders' insurgent Latino vote effort that worked particularly well in the neighboring southwest state of Nevada, along with other consultants with experience engaging Hispanic voters.
On Thursday, Rep. Greg Stanton (D-AZ), who was once considered a potential candidate, announced that he would not be running for the Senate.
Outside of Arizona, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) announced on Friday that he is indeed running for reelection, although a spokesperson for the National Republican Senate Committee (NRSC) told CNN's Manu Raju that they're "going to keep a close eye on Virginia and focus on recruiting a strong candidate who can raise the resources necessary to compete."
NRSC spox on Tim Kaine: “Virginians have shown they’re willing to vote Republican with the right candidate and the right political environment. We’re going to keep a close eye on Virginia and focus on recruiting a strong candidate who can raise the resources necessary to compete”— Manu Raju (@mkraju) January 20, 2023