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opinion | Ruben Gallego could be the antidote to Sinema’s maddening flakiness


Kyrsten Sinema, the independent senator from Arizona, has remained a thorn in the side of the Democrats, more than anyone else in the caucus (even Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia). From her missed votes to her inexplicable positions (e.g. going to the mat for the tax break on transferred interest for hedge fund managers), her antics have made her the fifth most unpopular senator according to a Morning Consult poll.

She has yet to announce whether she will run for re-election in 2024. Fortunately for the Democrats, the party has a strong contender who should convince her to step aside: Representative Ruben Gallego of Arizona.

Gallego announced Monday that he would run for Sinema’s seat. Are open ad follows his life of struggle (one of four children raised by a single mother), his military service (his unit suffered some of the worst losses in the Iraq War), and his personal strength (he dealt with post-traumatic stress disorder). All in all, he painted in stark contrast to Sinema. If she’s the darling of Big Pharma lobbyists and hedge fund managers, he’s the defender of those who are “one or two paychecks away from bankruptcy” and who are “still trying to decide between groceries and utilities.”

He was even sharper in a written statement: “The problem isn’t that Senator Sinema left the Democratic Party — it’s that she left Arizona,” he said. He added, “the rich and powerful no longer need advocates in Washington.”

Gallego’s populist tone should work well against Republicans in a general election campaign, while also capturing the Democratic primary voters’ dismay at Sinema. The other underlying message: he is loyal and trustworthy; she is out on herself. He offers perseverance and hard work in contrast to Sinema’s curse and penchant for self-promotion.

This could prove critical to the Democratic Party’s chances of retaining Sinema’s seat. Gallego would have a one-point advantage in a one-on-one matchup with the GOP’s top potential candidate, Kari Lake, as Democratic pollster Public Policy Polling found in late December.

But Democrats worry that if Sinema decides to run for re-election as an independent, the resulting three-party battle could give Republicans an edge. As PPP discovered, this scenario would “put Gallego at 40% and Republican Kari Lake at 41%, with Sinema a distant third at 13%.”

It’s possible that she decides to run in the Democratic primary, but that’s not a good option for her either. Last October, pollsters from Democratic group Data for Progress found she lost to Gallego in a one-on-one matchup by an astonishing 62 to 23 percent margin.

She also wouldn’t stand a chance in the GOP primaries. Republicans may have interacted with Sinema in recent months, encouraging her staunch defense of the filibuster and hinting that she would be welcome in their party. But the Arizona GOP primary voters, who last year selected MAGA favorites for Governor (Lake) and Senate (Blake Masters), are unlikely to embrace an openly bisexual, pro-choice former Democrat.

Democrats would certainly prefer Sinema to go quietly. That may not be in the cards, as her move to becoming independent suggests. In doing so, it appears she was trying to sidestep an almost impossible Democratic primary to stand a chance of hanging on to her seat.

But her poor polling against other Democrats and her lousy result in a three-way race might just lead her to hang up. After all, she can see her pitiful polls. And few senators are likely to have as many offers for easy K Street jobs with powerful interests as they do.

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