Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego of Arizona on Monday launched a 2024 campaign for the U.S. Senate seat held by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who recently left the Democratic Party and faces an uncertain political future.
“I will be challenging Kyrsten Sinema for the United States Senate, and I need all of your support,” the 43-year-old Gallego 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 if she will seek reelection in 2024.
Formerly a centrist Democrat, Sinema switched to become an independent after the November midterms, when Democrats unexpectedly extended their gains in the Senate. That outcome shifted the balance of power away from moderate Democrats like Sinema and Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who held enormous sway when the upper chamber was split 50-50 between the two parties and Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris held the tie-breaking vote.
Those centrists have stoked frustration from some Democrats who saw them as obstacles to passing President Joe Biden‘s legislative agenda before the midterms, when Democrats held both chambers of Congress. Republicans won control of the House in those elections.
Sinema announced her decision to leave the Democratic Party in December, saying she was rejecting “party politics.”
In an interview with the Associated Press, Gallego said Sinema “clearly has forgotten where she came from.”
“Instead of meeting with the people that need help, she meets with the people that 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 is “going to stay focused on the work I have ahead of us.”
“There’s a lot of really important work left on the table to get done for Arizona,” she said in that Friday interview.
Gallego’s campaign kicks off the fight for a sought-after seat in what has emerged as a pivotal swing state. Arizona was one of the battleground states that helped Biden secure his 2020 presidential win over former President Donald Trump.
In the November midterms, Arizona voters rejected Republican candidates for Senate and governor, helping crush predictions of a dominant election for the GOP.
Democrats face a difficult path to holding their 51-49 Senate majority next year. Democrats and independents who caucus 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.