Representative Ruben Gallego, Democrat of Arizona, speaks during a House Armed Services Committee hearing in Washington, DC, U.S., Thursday, July 9, 2020.
Greg Nash | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego of Arizona launched his 2024 campaign Monday for the U.S. Senate seat held by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who recently left the Democratic Party and faces an uncertain political future.
“I’m going to challenge Kyrsten Sinema for the United States Senate and I need all your support,” Gallego, 43, said in a video posted Monday morning.
The announcement makes Gallego, a Marine Corps veteran who has represented the Grand Canyon State in the U.S. House since 2015, the first candidate in what could be a three-way race for Sinema’s seat. The incumbent has not said whether he will seek re-election in 2024.
Formerly a centrist Democrat, Sinema switched to independents after the November midterms, when Democrats unexpectedly extended their gains in the Senate. The result shifted the balance of power away from moderate Democrats like Sinema and Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who held enormous influence when the upper house was split 50-50 between the two parties and Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris broke the tie.
The centrists have roused the frustration of some Democrats who saw them as obstacles to the passage of the president Joe Bidenlegislative agenda before the midterms when Democrats held both houses of Congress. Republicans gained control of the House in that election.
Sinema announced her decision to leave the Democratic Party in December, saying she rejected “party politics”.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Gallego said Sinema had “clearly forgotten where she came from.”
“Instead of meeting people who need help, he’s meeting people who are already powerful,” Gallego said.
A spokeswoman for Sinema declined to comment on Gallego’s announcement, but pointed to a recent radio interview in which the senator said she would “focus on the work at hand.”
“There’s a lot of really important work left on the table that we need to do for Arizona,” she said in that Friday interview.
Gallego’s campaign will kick off the battle for the coveted seat in what has emerged as a pivotal swing state. Arizona was one of the battleground states that helped Biden secure his 2020 presidential victory over former Donald Trump.
In mid-November, Arizona voters rejected Republican candidates for Senate and governor, helping crush predictions of a dominant GOP election.
Democrats face a tough road to keep their 51-49 Senate majority next year. Democrats and independents running with them — which for now includes Sinema — will have to defend seats in red or swing states including Montana, West Virginia, Ohio, Arizona, Nevada, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.