Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) is running for Senate, challenging incumbent independent Senator Kyrsten Sinema and possibly setting up a tricky three-way contest that will bring key Democratic leaders to the spot.
Gallego, a Marine Corps veteran who has seen combat in Iraq, has been a member of the House since 2015 and has for months been seen as Sinema’s most likely Democratic challenger, recently hiring well-known Democratic advisers and pollsters for a bid.
“If you’re more likely to meet the powerful than the powerless, you’re not doing this job right,” Gallego will say in his campaign’s launch video, aiming a direct shot at the lobbyist-friendly Sinema. “I’m sorry politicians let you down, but I’m going to change that.”
Sinema first won Senate elections in 2018 as a Democrat, only switching to an independent after the Democrats unexpectedly performed well in Arizona in the 2022 midterm elections. Gallego supported her in 2018 but, like many of the state’s Democrats, frustrated with her when she blocked crucial parts of President Joe Biden’s agenda.
Sinema, whose role as a swing vote meant she was key to compromising infrastructure and gun control during the last Congress, has yet to announce whether she will run for re-election. Limited early polls show her trailing Gallego as well as a potential GOP nominee.
“I don’t really think about or talk about the elections,” Sinema told local radio station KTAR last week. “I’m focused on work.”
In his launch video, Gallego sheds light on his life story — starting with his childhood in Chicago, where he was raised by a single mother and helped raise his three younger sisters, and including his time at Harvard and a post-Iraq battle with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“Most families feel they are one or two paychecks away from ruin. That’s not how we should live in this country,” Gallego says in the launch video, which will also appear in Spanish. “The rich and powerful don’t need more advocates. It is the people who still have to choose between groceries and utilities that need a fighter for them.”
Gallego’s bid also creates decision points for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (DN.Y.), his political operation and President Joe Biden, all of whom will soon have to decide whether to support Sinema — whose vote remains critical to confirming Biden’s nominees and retaining influence with negotiating with Republicans — or any Democratic candidate in Arizona.
Gallego is the front runner for the nomination, especially after fellow Representative Greg Stanton announced last week that he would not be running. But it’s not guaranteed, as some state and local Democrats continue to nominate Tucson Mayor Regina Romero as a potential candidate.
The Arizonan has hired New Deal Strategies, the same company that masterminded Senator John Fetterman’s (D-Pa.) successful 2022 run. Gallego is expected to follow a similar ideological path, mixing a progressive background with populist economic messages aimed at the working class while avoiding the least popular left-wing positions.
Republicans could also see a contested primary for the Senate seat: Kari Lake, the 2022 gubernatorial nominee, Blake Masters, the 2022 Senate nominee, and Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb are all potential candidates from the party’s Trumpist right wing. Karrin Taylor Robson, who lost the GOP gubernatorial primary to Lake, is a potential nominee from the party’s establishment wing.