Gallego: Arizona Republicans will call any Democrat ‘too liberal’
Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) compared his Senate run to those of Sens. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) and Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) on Friday when asked whether there was a lane for a progressive candidate in Arizona.
“We’ve litigated this already. This is the same thing they were saying about Fetterman. This is the same thing they were saying about Warnock,” Gallego told The Hill TV’s “What America’s Thinking.”
“I have the same voting record as [Sen.] Mark Kelly,” he continued, referring to his fellow Arizona Democrat. “And by the way, in Arizona, no matter who you are, no matter who, left, right or center, you are as a Democrat, you’re always going to be ‘too liberal’ when the Republicans attack you.”
Arizona has a history of electing statewide candidates that tend to be more moderate and break with their own party, including incumbent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I) and the late Sen. John McCain (R).
“I think these D.C. labels don’t matter to voters in Arizona,” Gallego said. “They really just care about someone who understands them.”
The nonpartisan Cook Political Report and the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics have rated the state’s 2024 Senate race as a “toss-up.”
Gallego announced Monday that he was running for Senate, setting up the possibility of an incumbent-on-incumbent general election challenge against Sinema. She announced late last year that she was leaving the Democratic Party to become an Independent, while still caucusing with Senate Democrats. Sinema has yet to announce whether she will run for reelection in 2024.
However, Gallego has been full-steam ahead in his bid for the upper chamber, raising an eye-popping $1 million in one day after announcing. The Hill first reported on Thursday that Gallego is stepping down from his job as head of Bold PAC, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’s (CHC) campaign arm, to focus on his Senate campaign.
Gallego told HillTV that he has not been in contact with Sinema since announcing his campaign.
“No one really speaks to Sen. Sinema and that’s kind of the problem,” Gallego said. “The fact is she hasn’t spoken to anybody in Arizona.”
Gallego is also coming into the race on a high note, after running Bold PAC during the 2022 election campaign — the organization successfully defended all its incumbents and added nine new members to the CHC, a record.
That experience dialed the five-term Arizona congressman into national campaign and fundraising organizations, giving him the kind of large-scale campaign experience needed to run a successful Senate bid.
Democrats, particularly progressives, have viewed Sinema as a roadblock to passing key Democratic priorities. She and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) have vocally defended the filibuster, a rule that requires most pieces of legislation to require at least 60 votes to pass in the Senate.
But some have expressed concerns that a three-way race between Sinema, Gallego and the eventual Republican nominee could sabotage Democratic efforts to hold the seat in 2024.
Gallego dismissed those concerns in the interview, predicting that if she Sinema runs, she would come in a “very, low, low third place.”
“There’s no concern on our behalf because we understand polling and more importantly we understand Arizonans,” he said. “She is very unpopular with Democrats and independents. Her running is more likely to pull from the Republicans because she basically has a ban on a lot of the values that people care about in Arizona.”
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