The long knives are out for Senator Kyrsten Sinema, as could be predicted. She has not yet formally declared her intention to run for re-election in 2024, yet the press is already hounding top Democrats about whether or not they would endorse her. So far none of those asked has been willing to do so.
Sinema left the Democrat Party (wink, wink) and is a registered Independent. However, she continues to caucus with the Democrats in the Senate. Just like Senators Bernie Sanders and Angus King, they enjoy calling themselves Independents yet they keep one foot in by choosing to caucus with Democrats. In this case, Sinema likely declared her independence because she could see what was coming. Progressive Democrats are not happy with her and her ability to work with Republicans and other moderate Democrats. Plus, Sinema and Senator Manchin are responsible for saving the filibuster in the Senate.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was asked if he would endorse Senator Sinema on Tuesday. He said it is much too early to make such a declaration. He did toss her a bone by saying she is an excellent senator. Schumer wasn’t the only Democrat avoiding the subject.
“Look, Sen. Sinema is an excellent Congress member and Senate member, and she’s done a lot of good things here, but it’s much too early to make a decision,” Schumer told reporters when asked whether he would endorse Sinema over a Democratic challenger.
Other Senate Democrats on Monday dodged questions about whether they would back Sinema over the Democratic nominee in next year’s race, saying it was too early to endorse a candidate before Sinema announces her plans.
Both Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Gary Peters (Mich.) declined this week to commit to backing Sinema.
Mitch McConnell had no problem showing his support for Sinema. Ever since she declared herself to be an Independent, the Democrats have had to play nice with her and the Republicans have tried to win her over to their side. She knows she has a certain amount of leverage in such a closely divided Senate. She and Joe Manchin frequently join together to shape a policy argument.
“Sen. Sinema has been an important part of the United States Senate, the most important thing she did was to save the institution itself by protecting the filibuster,” he said. “She’s also been a significant part of the bipartisan agreements that have been reached in the Senate,” referring to infrastructure and gun-violence bills passed in the 117th Congress.
“As to whether or not she chooses to run again is her decision and I think it is a big dilemma for the Senate Democratic majority to decide whether to support her or to support somebody running on the Democratic ticket,” he observed.
Sinema has a pretty strong primary challenger. Rep. Ruben Gallego, a Phoenix-area congressman and retired Marine who served in Iraq, announced he will challenge Sinema on Monday. He was speaking to a group of fellow veterans at the time.
“You’re the first group of people that are hearing this besides my family. I will be challenging Kyrsten Sinema for the United States Senate, and I need all of your support,” Gallego, 43, told the group at a veterans organization in Guadalupe, Arizona.
“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 said in his announcement video. “The rich and the powerful, 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, who is of Colombian and Mexican descent, would be Arizona’s first Latino senator if elected. He spoke in both English and Spanish in his announcement video and described the hardship and financial instability his family faced when he was growing up
Gallego said his mother, an immigrant, would “cry, like, every night, being stressed out about how she was gonna raise, like, four kids on a secretary’s salary, you know, with an absent father.”
“Fue una experiencia muy dura,” Gallego added in Spanish, which translates to: “It was a very hard experience.”
Gallego was first elected to the House in 2014. He is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and also chaired the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ campaign arm, BOLD PAC, during the 2022 cycle. If successful, he would be Arizona’s first Latino senator.
There are several Republicans who are considering challenging Sinema, too, including former gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake.
It will be interesting to see if Sinema decides to run again. I think she will and I think she will do so as an Independent. She will count on a generally moderate electorate in Arizona. The voters there are known for their appreciation of independent thinkers and support them in elections. We’ll see if that works or Sinema in 2024.