ARIZONA, USA — Editor's note: The above video aired during a previous broadcast.
Arizona Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego will run for a U.S. Senate seat in 2024, he announced in a video posted to Twitter Monday morning.
The long-awaited announcement by the five-term Phoenix congressman puts him on a potential collision course with independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema in a three-way general election in November 2024.
Sinema changed her party registration from Democratic to independent in December.
She said she “never really fit into a box of any political party.” Since 2004, Sinema had run in and won eight consecutive elections as a Democrat.
In her role as a crucial Senate swing vote over the last two years, Sinema's support for the filibuster and disdain for many Democratic priorities enraged the party base in Arizona. Recent polling showed she is one of the most unpopular senators in the country.
One year ago, the state Democratic Party's executive board censured her for standing in the way of voting rights legislation.
At the same time, Sinema has helped cobble together bipartisan coalitions that have produced most, if not all, of the Biden Administration's significant legislative achievements.
Sinema: 'Arizonans Want a Break'
Sinema hasn't said whether she will run for re-election in 2024, but she has set up a campaign account for a Senate race.
In an interview Friday on KTAR radio's "Mike Broomhead Show," Sinema didn't respond directly to the news that Gallego was running.
"A never-ending focus on campaign politics is why so many people hate politics," Sinema told the fill-in host, former Republican Congressman Matt Salmon.
"We just got through a really grueling election cycle, and I think most Arizonans want a break."
Gallego: Sinema Can't Win
In a recent interview with 12News, Gallego said polling showed that Sinema couldn't win re-election to a second six-year term.
"Even if I don't run, she's still going to lose," he said. "What weighs on me is to make sure we keep the seat. She's not going to do it, and that's what really matters."
Gallego is a Marine veteran of Iraq who has been anchored in the Democratic Party's progressive wing. In recent years, he's carved out a niche in foreign affairs.
Clash Early in Their Careers
He got his start in politics as an organizer in the 2000s.
Gallego and Sinema clashed early on in their political careers over how to manage a statewide initiative that would have banned same-sex marriage.
Gallego's marriage to Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego ended in divorce in 2017. They have a son together.
Gallego and his current wife, Sydney, announced on social media this month that they are expecting a daughter in July.
Democratic Seat at Risk?
After historic U.S. Senate victories for Arizona Democrats in three consecutive election cycles, the Gallego-Sinema rift threatens to hand the Senate seat back to a Republican in 2024.
For President Joe Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a three-way U.S. Senate election in Arizona would be a looming disaster.
Democrats could lose a seat they desperately need to keep control of the Senate, in a year when they will be playing defense across the country hold on to a slim majority.
No Republican candidates have announced an intention to run in the Arizona Senate race.
The U.S. Senate primary is 19 months away, in August 2024.
Test of Gallego's Fund Raising Skill
One potential hurdle for Gallego was cleared last week. Democratic Congressman Greg Stanton of Phoenix said he wouldn't run in the primary.
But Gallego faces an urgent challenge: showing he can match Sinema and Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly's records as a prolific fund-raisers.
Candidate fund-raising for Arizona's last three U.S. Senate races, starting with Sinema's in 2018, has soared exponentially, reflecting a new swing-state status.
Gallego raised $2.4 million for a 2022 congressional re-election race that he won by 54 points over the Republican candidate, according to his most recent campaign finance report. Gallego's opponent raised just $73,000.
In her 2018 Senate race, Sinema raised $22.6 million, a record at that time.
In contrast, Kelly pulled in a $92.3 million for his successful 2022 campaign, according to his most recent campaign finance report.
This is a developing story. Tune in to 12News for the latest information.
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