Sinema’s decision places perhaps the biggest burden on someone else entirely: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. The House’s top Democrat and his campaign arm are already under enormous pressure, particularly from the left, to rally behind a 2024 Senate candidate from his own party, rather than align behind Sinema.
Grijalva described the work of the party in simple terms: “[T]or rally around a democrat and groom him. That’s all we can do.”
Chuck Coughlin, an Arizona-based strategist who left the Republican Party in 2017 and is now unaffiliated, said “people are collectively gasping” in his state. “Everyone is going to be reevaluating the options, because it completely shuffles the deck. It puts her in charge of the narrative.”
But even Sinema’s allies acknowledge behind closed doors that 2024 won’t be an easy fight for her either. While she has always been a strong fundraiser, she would lack party resources, like a field game, that are critical to voter turnout, particularly in a sprawling state like Arizona. Republicans in the state, even if some support her, would not be expected to help with that.
The National Democratic forces are not rushing to take a position on Sinema’s departure, nor are they committed to working against him. Privately, some operatives said they are awaiting signals from party leaders on how to proceed.
While the Arizona Democratic Party issued a statement Friday criticizing Sinema’s positions on voting rights and corporate tax rates, national Democratic groups remained mum.
Spokesmen for both the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Senate Majority PAC, the super PAC aligned with party leaders, declined to comment.
Gallego is not the only Democrat being discussed as a potential Senate candidate in 2024. Rep. greg stantona former Maricopa County mayor and Democrat who represents Tempe and part of Phoenix, is another name that pops up among the state’s political operatives.
Several people close to the Arizona Democratic delegation said Sinema’s move amounted to an acknowledgment that she could not win a primary. Some insisted that he had no path to re-election, citing bad blood between the unpredictable senator and the party apparatus.
Sinema’s favorability among Arizona Democrats has declined over the past two years. Progressive polling firm Data for Progress found in January that her favorability rating with Democratic primary voters was just 19 percent, compared with the senator’s 78 percent. mark kelly (D-Arizona).
That same poll showed Gallego defeating Sinema in a head-to-head primary battle, with Gallego capturing 74 percent support, compared to Sinema’s 16 percent.
Gallego, who has eyed and then passed on a Senate run in the past, has remained mum about his plans. When questioned recently by reporters on Capitol Hill, he said: “I’m answering that in 2023. We’re still in 2022.”
While Sinema’s party switch could also affect GOP votes, most operatives who watched the Senate races said it will hurt Democrats the most. Many agree that there is little risk of Sinema sharply dividing the Republican vote, as independent candidates historically get more from Democrats than Republicans.
However, a possible three-way electoral contest in Arizona raises the stakes in the ongoing infighting among Republicans over the quality of the candidates. After nominating candidates closely aligned with former President Donald Trump, who sought to appeal to the right wing of the Republican Party, Arizona Republicans have lost every state election this year.
Gov. Doug Ducey was courted by national Republicans to run in 2022, though he ultimately declined to run, saying earlier this year that he has no interest in running for the Senate. But Republicans are again pushing him to get in by 2024, and if he did, he’d be the front runner, bringing an already-existing statewide campaign infrastructure and ready access to domestic donors. Republican Party Representatives david schweikert Y andy biggs are other names that are being discussed by party agents in the state.
Sinema would be a rare and formidable independent candidate if she runs, positioning herself to capture a significant share of the centrist vote in both parties. But she could be particularly attractive to moderate Republicans if Republican primary voters continue to pick candidates disliked by general election voters.
“We just saw all the MAGA candidates lose, which is a good sign for her,” Coughlin said. “I think what she’s doing is rolling the dice on the continuing evolution of the Arizona electorate.”
A consensus in Arizona political circles: Few were surprised by the news.
In fact, Grijalva said his wife posed exactly this scenario just hours after Democrats won their 51st Senate seat in the Georgia runoff on Tuesday.
“Mona said, ‘What’s wrong with Sinema? I bet you he becomes independent,’” Grijalva said. “In terms of his influence in the Senate, the universe changed with that victory.”