Sinema’s decision places perhaps the biggest burden on someone else: the Senate Majority Leader chuck schumer. The top House Democrat and his campaign arm are already under tremendous pressure, particularly from the left, to unite behind a 2024 Senate candidate from their own party — instead of aligning themselves behind Sinema.
Grijalva described the work of the party in simple terms:[T]o gather around a democrat and prepare that. That’s all we can do.
Chuck Coughlin, an Arizona-based strategist who left the Republican Party in 2017 and is no longer affiliated, said “people are taking a collective breath” in his state. “Everyone is going to re-evaluate the options, because it completely blurs the game. It puts her in charge of the narrative.
But even Sinema’s allies acknowledge behind closed doors that 2024 will not be an easy fight for her either. While she’s always been an excellent fundraiser, she’s reportedly lacking in party resources — like a running game — that are critical for voter turnout, especially in a sprawling state like Arizona. State Republicans, while some support her, shouldn’t help that.
National Democratic forces are not rushing to take a stand on Sinema’s departure, nor committing to work against her. Privately, some agents said they were awaiting guidance from the party leadership on how to proceed.
While the Arizona Democratic Party issued a statement on Friday criticizing Sinema’s positions on voting rights and corporate tax rates, national Democratic groups were silent.
Spokespersons for the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee and the Senate Majority PAC, the party leader-aligned super PAC, declined to comment.
Gallego isn’t the only Democrat being discussed as a potential Senate nominee in 2024. Rep. Greg Stantona former mayor and Democrat from Maricopa County representing Tempe and part of Phoenix, is another name floating around among the state’s political operatives.
Several people close to the Arizona Democratic delegation said Sinema’s decision amounted to an acknowledgment that she could not win a primary. Some have insisted she has no path to re-election, citing bad blood between the unpredictable senator and the party apparatus.
Sinema’s preference among Arizona Democrats has slipped in the past two years. Progressive polling firm Data for Progress found in January that his approval rating among Democratic primary voters was just 19%, compared to Sen’s 78%. Mark Kelly (D-Arizona).
That same survey showed Sinema being beaten by Gallego in a one-on-one primary battle, with Gallego getting 74% support, to Sinema’s 16%.
Gallego, who has watched and then passed up a Senate race in the past, has remained mum on his plans. When asked by Capitol reporters recently, 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 watching the Senate races said it would hurt Democrats more. Many agree that there is little risk of Sinema dramatically splitting the GOP vote, since independent candidates historically draw more from Democrats than Republicans.
A potential three-way general election race in Arizona, however, raises the stakes for Republicans’ ongoing infighting over candidate quality. After nominating candidates closely aligned with former President Donald Trump, who sought to appeal to the right wing of the GOP, Republicans in Arizona have lost every statewide race this year.
Gov. Doug Ducey was courted by National Republicans to run in 2022, though he ultimately declined to do so and said earlier this year he had no interest in running for the Senate. But Republicans are pushing him in again for 2024 — and if he did, he would be the early front-runner, bringing an already existing statewide campaign infrastructure and immediate access to domestic donors. GOP representatives. David Schweikert and Andy Bigg are other names discussed by party agents in the state.
Sinema would be a rare, formidable independent candidate should she run, positioning herself to capture a sizable share of the centrist vote in both parties. But she could be particularly attractive to moderate Republicans, if GOP primary voters continue to choose candidates who prove off-putting to general election voters.
“We just saw all of the MAGA contestants lose, which is a good sign for her,” Coughlin said. “I think what she’s doing is rolling the dice on the continued evolution of the Arizona electorate.”
A consensus in Arizona political circles: few were surprised by the news.
In fact, Grijalva said his wife floated that exact scenario just hours after Democrats secured their 51st Senate seat in Georgia’s runoff on Tuesday.
“Mona said, ‘What’s happening to Sinema? I bet she becomes independent,” Grijalva said. “In terms of his influence in the Senate, the universe has changed with this victory.”