Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) is running for Senate, challenging incumbent independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and potentially setting up a tricky three-way contest that will put major Democratic leaders on the spot.
Gallego, a Marine corps veteran who saw combat in Iraq, has served in the House since 2015 and has been seen as Sinema’s most likely Democratic challenger for months, recently hiring well-known Democratic consultants and pollsters for a bid.
“If you’re more likely to be meeting with the powerful than the powerless, you’re doing this job incorrectly,” Gallego says in his campaign’s launch video, taking a direct shot at the lobbyist-friendly Sinema. “I’m sorry that politicians have let you down, but I’m gonna change that.”
Sinema first won election to the Senate in 2018 as a Democrat, only switching to an independent after Democrats did unexpectedly well in Arizona in the 2022 midterms. Gallego backed her in 2018, but like many of the state’s Democrats, grew frustrated with her as she blocked crucial parts of President Joe Biden’s agenda.
Sinema, whose role as a swing vote meant she was key to brokering compromises on infrastructure and gun control during the last Congress, has yet to announce whether she’ll run for reelection. Limited early polling shows her trailing both Gallego and a potential GOP nominee.
“I’m not really thinking about or talking about the election,” Sinema told local radio station KTAR last week. “I’m focused on the work.”
In his launch video, Gallego highlights his life story — beginning with his youth 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 that they are one or two paychecks away from going under. That is not the way that we should be living in this country,” Gallego says in the launch video, which will also be released in Spanish. “The rich and the powerful, they don’t need more advocates. It’s the people that are still trying to decide between groceries and utilities that need a fighter for them.”
Gallego’s bid also creates decision points for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), his political operation and President Joe Biden, all of whom may soon need to decide if they are supporting Sinema — whose vote remains crucial to confirming Biden’s nominees and maintaining leverage when negotiating with Republicans — or a Democratic nominee in Arizona.
In a statement, the National Republican Senatorial Committee welcomed Gallego to the race by taunting Schumer.
“The Democrat civil war is on in Arizona,” committee spokesman Philip Letsou said. “Chuck Schumer has a choice: stand with open borders radical Ruben Gallego or back his incumbent, Senator Kyrsten Sinema.”
Gallego is the front-runner for the nomination, especially after fellow Rep. Greg Stanton announced last week he would not run. But it is not guaranteed, with some national and local Democrats continuing to point to Tucson Mayor Regina Romero as a potential candidate.
The Arizonan has hired New Deal Strategies, the same firm that masterminded the successful 2022 run of Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.). Gallego is expected to chart a similar ideological path, combining a progressive background and populist economic messaging aimed at the working class while avoiding the least popular left-wing positions.
Republicans could also see a contested primary for the Senate seat: 2022 gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake, 2022 Senate nominee Blake Masters 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.