Arizona Democrat Gets Deeply Personal to Launch Potential Race Against Kyrsten Sinema
Newly independent incumbent hasn't said whether she'll seek second term next year
Ruben Gallego, a Democratic congressman from Arizona and a combat veteran from the war in Iraq, officially launched his campaign for the Senate seat currently occupied by Sen Kyrsten Sinema, with a video in which he shared deeply personal stories.
Gallego, who has served in Congress for eight years, is the first official candidate to potentially challenge Arizona's senior senator.
Sinema, elected in 2018 as the first Democratic senator from Arizona in a generation, ultimately has proven an unreliable ally to President Biden and other Democrats in Congress. So much so that the Arizona Democratic party took the highly unusual step of censuring her and her actions.
This culminated last month in Sinema breaking from the Democratic Party and switching to serve as an independent.
Sinema has not yet officially said whether she will seek a second term.
Gallego, who served as a United States Marine Corps Reserve corporal during Operation Iraqi Freedom, aims to reclaim the seat for Democrats in next year's elections.
He launched his Senate bid Monday with a highly autobiographical online video.
In it, Gallego, 43, shares a mix of personal story with his view of policy.
“Growing up poor, the only thing I really had was the American dream. An opportunity — it’s the one thing that we give every American no matter where they are born in life. It was actually something to believe in and to fight for,” he said in the video. “The odds that a single immigrant mom with a Latino boy, statistically, I was never supposed to end up even in college.
“I slept on the floor, on a couch on a roll-out mat. Hearing her cry, like every night, stressed out about how she’s going to raise, like, four kids on a secretary’s salary, you know, with an absent father,” Gallego recalled. “Having to step up and be a father figure to my three sisters and skipping my teenage years influenced me a lot. When you’re poor, you really need a belief and a hope in a better future.
“And what helps to do that is when you have other people believe with you. My family, who didn’t laugh when I told them I’m going to Harvard. I had teachers who did everything they could to make sure that it was possible. I had a government that believed in kids like me. I really did feel that I owed the country something,” he added. “I got sent to Iraq. Losing all my friends, consistently being shot at, people trying to blow you up all the time. You never really fully come back from a war. You’re not the same person. Fighting through PTSD, there were some very low moments in my life. But I still didn’t give up hope and I pushed forward. I found a new way to keep serving.
“Hey, hey, hey. You’re the first group of people that are hearing this besides my family, I will be challenging Kyrsten Sinema for United States Senate and I need all of your support,” Gallego said.
Sinema continues to rank among the nation's most unpopular senators following her departure from the Democratic Party, according to Morning Consult Political Intelligence tracking in all 50 states.
But less than two years out from a potential 2024 re-election campaign, surveys conducted after she announced her decision to become an independent reveal a shift that’s made her more popular with Arizona’s unaffiliated and Republican voters but hastened her descent with the state’s Democrats, according to the public opinion firm.
Should Sinema seek re-election as an independent next year, political strategists in the state believe the weight of her new standing among Arizona Republicans and independents — a handy asset — will likely come down to whether the state GOP elevates a candidate with broader appeal or reaches for the extreme as it did with nominees for statewide offices such as governor and Senate in 2022.
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