Gallego posts big fundraiser in bid for Sinema AZ Senate seat

Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., prepares to mark up the House Armed Services Committee in the Rayburn Building on the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act on Wednesday, June 12, 2019.

Tom Williams | CQ-Roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images

Rep. Ruben Gallego’s Senate campaign said Tuesday it raised more than $1 million in one day as the Democrat launched his bid for Sen. Kirsten Sinema’s coveted seat in the 2024 election cycle.

More than 27,000 donations contributed to the recall, breaking an Arizona record for the most donations in the first 24 hours of the campaign, according to a news release.

The Gallego campaign said it broke that record, previously held by incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly, in just eight hours.

“I’m proud to report that we received more donations from real people on our first day than Senator Sinema did in the last three years combined,” Gallego said in the press release.

A spokeswoman for Sinema declined to comment but pointed to a recent radio interview in which the senator said she would “remain focused on the work ahead of me.”

“There’s a lot of really important work that needs to be done for Arizona,” Sinema said in Friday’s interview.

The early windfall for Gallego’s Senate bid came as Sinema, who recently ditched the Democratic Party to become an independent, has yet to announce whether she will run for re-election in 2024.

Sinema and a handful of other centrist Democrats enjoyed enormous influence when the Senate was split 50-50 between the two parties, with Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris holding the deciding vote. They have repeatedly angered their fellow Democrats in the Senate after refusing to support or force major changes to large parts of President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda and other key votes.

That math in the Senate changed after Democrats beat expectations in November’s midterm elections, expanding their control to an outright majority in the Senate, 51-49. When Sinema left the Democratic Party last month, she called the change “a reflection of who I’ve always been.”

But she has also signaled that she will continue to hold discussions with Democrats, a position that has helped the president’s party pass bills that have helped make the 117th Congress one of the most productive in years.

By defecting from the Democrats, Sinema will also avoid competing in the Democratic primary if he chooses to run again — a prospect that could lead to a three-way general election.

Despite an initial surge in his campaign’s fundraising, Gallego’s Senate bid comes amid skepticism that a more progressive candidate can win statewide in Arizona, where both Republicans and “other” voters outnumber Democrats.

Some Democrats on Capitol Hill tread carefully when asked about the race.

“Senator Sinema is an excellent member of Congress and member of the Senate, and she’s done a lot of good things here, but it’s too early to make a decision,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., told reporters Tuesday.

Their predicament was welcome news to Republicans.

“Senator Sinema was an important part of the United States Senate, and the most important thing she did was save the institution itself by protecting the filibuster,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

“I think it’s a big dilemma for the Democratic majority in the Senate to decide whether to support her or to support someone running on the Democratic ticket,” McConnell said.

Democrats face a tough road to hold on to their slim majority in the Senate next year. Early projections of the electoral map show Democrats and the independents who cluster with them defending more Senate seats than Republicans. That includes Arizona, which the University of Virginia Center for Politics just labeled a “toss-up.”

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