PHOENIX (AP) – Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallegoa liberal firebrand and prominent Latino lawmaker, announced Monday he will challenge Sen. US independent Kyrsten Sinema in 2024, became the first candidate to jump into the race and set up a potential three-way contest.
Gallego said he will fight for normal people who are struggling to make ends meet and have lost faith in politicians. He said he and Sinema both came from “simple to bad ways” but had taken different paths in Congress.
“I’m better for this job than Kyrsten Sinema because I haven’t forgotten where I came from,” Gallego told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview. “I think he clearly forgot where he came from. Instead of meeting people who needed help, he met people who were already strong.”
Gallego, a 43-year-old military veteran first elected to Congress in 2014, has made no secret of his interest in challenging Sinema, a long-time rival in Arizona politics who has become a block and irritant to Democrats. during the presidency of Joe Biden. He left the Democratic Party in December, register as an independent and said he doesn’t “fit into the traditional party system.” He has not said whether he plans to run for a second term.
Although no Republican has entered the race, potential contenders include former governor Kari Lake, former US 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 real estate developer who lost to Lake in last year’s primary, and former Governor Doug Ducey are also possible contenders.
The three-way race, coupled with the risk that Sinema and the Democratic nominee will eventually split the vote, will complicate the party’s battle to maintain control of the Senate in 2024.. Democrats will be forced to defend 23 seats, including Sinema and two others held by independents, compared to just 10 seats for Republicans.
With a tough and expensive race on the horizon, it remains unclear how strong the Democratic establishment and major donors will be against Sinema, who has voted for most of the Democratic legislation. even if he stands in the way of the main priority for the White House, congressional leaders and the progressive movement.
“I think they’re going to be with us because we’re going to run a winning campaign and because at the end of the day, if you look at where Arizonans are going, they’re going to be with us and not with them,” Gallego told the AP.
Sinema spokeswoman Hannah Hurley did not immediately comment on Gallego’s announcement.
Gallego, an acerbic presence on social media that quickly destroys rivals from both parties, floated the idea of Sinema challenging to raise money last year and has been publicly assembling a team of advisers for a few weeks, Hiring Democratic campaign veterans with experience working in the tough swing-state Senate race in Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania.
He announced his campaign with an online video showing him talking to veterans at an American Legion post in Guadalupe, a Latino and indigenous community outside Phoenix.
The son of immigrants from Mexico and Colombia, Gallego was raised in Chicago by a single mother, after his father was imprisoned for drug dealing. He enlisted in the US Marine reserve while he was on involuntary leave from Harvard University. He wrote in his 2021 book, “They Called Us Lucky,” that he was asked to leave Harvard during his sophomore year, when he partied too much, his grades slipped and he broke unspecified rules. He was later allowed to return.
He fought in Iraq in 2005 in a unit that sustained heavy casualties, and he struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder after returning. He moved to Arizona to join his Harvard girlfriend, who has become active in Democratic politics in the country. The couple married in 2010 and divorced in 2017, a month before their son was born. His ex-wife, Kate Gallego, is now the mayor of Phoenix.
Gallego was elected in 2010 to the state Legislature, where Sinema also served for one of his two terms. In 2014, he won a bitter congressional primary, toppling a dynastic figure in the Phoenix Latino community. He represents an overwhelmingly Democratic district that includes Black and Latino neighborhoods south and west of Phoenix.
In Congress, he has focused on veterans and military issues.
Sinema has modeled his political approach on the maverick style of the late Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona, who alienated his party’s grassroots by sometimes crossing the aisle to work with Democrats. He became an ardent supporter of bipartisan compromise in an era when extreme partisanship has made it more difficult.
He has been at the center of many of the Biden presidency’s congressional deals, from a massive bipartisan infrastructure package to a landmark bill to legally protect same-sex marriage. But he has also become alienated from many Democrats, who blame him for favoring progressive priorities such as raising the minimum wage and watering down others, such as Biden’s social spending initiative.
his support to maintain the filibusterSenate rule requires 60 out of 100 votes to pass most legislation, has made himself a pariah on the left.