Early announcement gives Ruben Gallego jump on potential 3-way Senate showdown

Jan 23, 2023, 9:40 AM | Updated: 1:57 pm
Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) looks on during a press conference on Capitol Hill on June 30, 2020, in W...
Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) looks on during a press conference on Capitol Hill on June 30, 2020, in Washington, D.C. Gallego is running for independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema's seat in 2024. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — The dust is barely settled from the last election, but U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego of Arizona doesn’t think it’s too early to start campaigning for the next one.

“Unfortunately, campaigns are really expensive and they take a lot of time,” the Phoenix Democrat told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Arizona’s Morning News on Monday, shortly after announcing his bid for independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s seat in 2024.

Gallego, a Marine veteran, said the early announcement gives him time to meet people around the state and directly discuss the issues with them, something he says Sinema hasn’t done enough.

“Yeah, it’s long, but it actually ends up being better in terms of being able to really get down into what the core of politics is supposed to be … politicians being responsive to citizens.”

Gallego said he received the support of his family, including his pregnant wife, before deciding to enter what will be a closely watched race.

“It is hard to run for Senate while your wife is pregnant,” he said. “But there’s thousands of Arizonans that have pregnant wives or loved ones, in general, and they’re still trying to go to work, do a 9-to-5 job and barely making it.

“So yeah, it’s tough, but it’s certainly not tougher than what a lot of people are doing every day here in Arizona just to survive.”

Gallego dismissed critics who say he’s too far left to win a statewide election in Arizona.

“They said that about every candidate that has ran for the last three cycles, and the Democrats have won, right?” he said.

“So, look, pundits don’t reflect Arizona voters. At the end of the day, when I talk about my values, when I talk about the American dream and how everybody deserves that right to have the opportunity to the American dream, I think that’s going to communicate a lot more than these stupid labels.”

Emily Ryan, a political consultant with Copper State Consulting Group in Phoenix, said Gallego knows what he’s doing.

“Gallego is a very smart person,” Ryan told KTAR News. “He’s a smart campaigner and he’s a smart guy on the policy issues. He knows what he’s doing, and he’s throwing down a marker before anyone else jumps in.”

Sinema, who became Arizona’s first Democratic U.S. senator in more than two decades when she was elected in 2018 but left the party late last year, hasn’t confirmed that she will seek reelection.

“I’m not really thinking or talking about the election right now — although others are — I’m staying focused on the work,” she told KTAR News’ The Mike Broomhead Show on Friday amid reports that Gallego’s announcement was forthcoming.

Gallego racked up five U.S. House wins by large margins in a safely Democratic district. A statewide contest will be a different beast.

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 considered possible contenders.

A three-way race, coupled with the risk that Sinema and the eventual Democratic nominee will split the vote, would complicate Democrats’ already uphill battle to maintain control of the Senate in 2024. Democrats will be forced to defend 23 seats, including Sinema’s and two others held by independents, compared with just 10 seats for Republicans.

Ryan expects to see plenty of fireworks during Arizona’s long Senate campaign.

“If we do see a Gallego-Lake or a Gallego-Lake-Sinema showdown on a debate stage, that’s going to be pay-per-view it will be so fiery,” she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Early announcement gives Ruben Gallego jump on potential 3-way Senate showdown