Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) reportedly met with some of Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s (D-Ariz.) donors amid speculation swirls the congressman will mount a primary challenge against the freshman senator.
Punchbowl News reported on Monday, citing sources close to the situation, that Gallego traveled to New York this weekend to meet with some of Sinema’s donors about a potential Senate run in 2024, when Sinema faces reelection.
Gallego, a four-term congressman representing Arizona, told CNN last week that he has received “a lot of encouragement” from elected officials, senators, unions, traditional Democratic groups and big donors to wage a primary bid against Sinema.
Gallego’s comments come as Democrats are becoming increasingly frustrated with Sinema, who along with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has delayed two of the party’s top legislative priorities. Sinema refused to commit to supporting the party’s roughly $1.2 trillion social spending and climate package, and she objected to changing the Senate filibuster to help pass voting rights legislation.
The Arizona Democratic Party’s executive board censured Sinema on Saturday, pointing to the senator’s stance on the filibuster and voting rights.
Sinema is also facing criticism from within the party on Capitol Hill. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) last week said he is open to supporting a primary challenge to the Arizona senator, adding that he thinks there is a “good chance” another Democrat could wage a bid against her.
Gallego told CNN, however, that Sanders was not one of the Democrats who approached the congressman about a primary challenge.
Asked later on Tuesday what is stopping him from launching a primary bid against Sinema amid the encouragement from Democrats, Gallego told CNN he remains focused on the 2022 midterm elections for now.
In 2023, however, he said he will “be making a decision and publicly making an announcement.”
“In the meantime, I’m gonna continue making sure Arizona keeps trending the right way. And I’ll have meetings with anybody that’s interested in talking to me about that race,” he said.
“Conversations will be ongoing and then that decision will come in 2023,” he later added.
Pressed on if the donors he met with in New York said they would support his primary campaign, Gallego said “yes, to be honest, I have gotten a lot of that assurances, I’ve gotten assurances not just from New York City but from all over the country, here in Arizona.”
“But again, the determination is gonna be based everything on number one, actually what the voters of Arizona want, and number two, really, you know, talking to my family and making that decision in 2023,” he added.
Gallego himself has not shied away from publicly criticizing Sinema. The congressman earlier this month said it was “past time” that Sinema and her colleagues in the upper chamber act to protect voting rights. He called out the Arizona senator by name.
“We won’t shrink from protecting our democracy and the voting rights of all Americans. It’s past time for the U.S. Senate and Senator Sinema to do the same,” Gallego said in a speech on the House floor shortly after Sinema delivered remarks on the other side of the Capitol.
He told Politico in an interview that Sinema’s stance was “disappointing,” and that he thought her views on the legislative hurdle were “naive” and “very problematic for a lot fo Arizonans of all political persuasions.”
Sinema said she was in favor of keeping the filibuster intact because eliminating it would “simply guarantee that we lose a critical tool we need to safeguard our democracy.”
Gallego in October emerged as an early favorite to take on Sinema as frustrations swirling regarding the senator’s stance on the party’s social spending and climate package.
The Hill reached out to Gallego and Sinema for comment.
Updated at 6:09 p.m.