The most unpredictable Senate race on the map in 2024 is underway in Arizona, with a high-profile Democrat targeting Democratic-turned-independent Senator Kyrsten Sinema and Republicans looking to grab a state far from them tense situation.
“It’s grabbing your popcorn and watching,” said Republican state Rep. Justin Wilmes, who described the game as “wild, wild west.”
Sinema, who was elected to the Senate as a Democrat in 2018, became an independent in December, though she continues to caucus in the chamber with her former party colleagues. She has not said whether she will seek re-election in 2024.
But her fractured relationship with Democratic voters and groups that once supported her was on display Wednesday at a rally dubbed the “Sinema Sold Out” at the Arizona State Capitol in Phoenix.
Members of progressive groups representing labor, immigrants and veterans, who held up a paper pig as a prop to describe what they called Sinema’s pursuit of wealthy donors, called for the former Democrat to resign. Almost all groups organized and lobbied voters to elect Sinema in the 2018 Arizona heat. None of the group members interviewed by CNN said they would support her again.
“We’re going to work hard to elect a new senator who better represents Arizona,” said Alex Alvarez, executive director of Progress Arizona. “It’s time for Kyrsten Sinema to step down. It’s clear Arizonans don’t want her to run again.”
The contours of Arizona’s Senate race could take longer to develop than other high-profile 2024 races. Arizona’s application deadline is next April, and the state’s primary election is not until next August.
Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb last month became the first major Republican to enter the race. His campaign declined an interview request. But several other high-profile Republican contenders are weighing bids.
Kari Lake, the loser of the Republican 2022 gubernatorial race and a prominent election denier, mocked a potential Senate bid and announced the release of her memoir this week, a move usually preceded by political campaign.
Abe Hamad, who lost the 2022 race for attorney general, and Karin Taylor-Robson, who lost to Lake in last year’s gubernatorial primary, are also speaking with the National Republican Senate Committee, CNN reported. Officials meet. Republican businessman Jim Lamon, who lost his party’s nomination for another Senate seat in the state last year, could also be involved.
For now, though, Arizona Republicans, after losing Senate races in the past three election cycles, say they’re glad it’s over.
“I mean, I’m a politician, man. I’m a Republican,” said state Rep. Wilmes. “Knowing that your opponent is having trouble getting to the line of scrimmage and executing their game is a good thing for me.”
Progressives have largely supported U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego. The five-term Phoenix-area congressman and Iraq war veteran raised more money than Sinema in the first quarter of 2023, which ended March 31, by nearly $3.8 million to $2.1 million, FEC filings show. . But Sinema still has a significant cash advantage, with about $10 million in the bank and $2.7 million in the counterparty.
Gallego has been harshly critical of the senator, arguing that she owes a debt of gratitude to lobbyists and business interests, and has argued that since her 2-point victory over Republican Martha McSally in 2018, she has Lost contact with Arizona.
“She’s broken the trust of a lot of people in Arizona. They don’t believe in her values anymore, and she doesn’t want to repair that relationship,” Gallego said in an interview.
Sinema’s office declined an interview request. “Kysten is focused on delivering real solutions, not campaign politics,” press secretary Pablo Sierra-Carmona said in a statement.
Still, Sinema’s independent re-election bid is far from the only development that could change the landscape ahead of Arizona’s 2024 election.
No Labels, a centrist group allied with business, gained voting rights in several states. The group has described its efforts as an insurance policy if national parties offer an unacceptable presidential candidate, but Democrats in Arizona fear the group could align itself with Sinema in the Senate race.
Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes, a Democrat, acknowledged in March that the No Label Party gained voting rights in the state after meeting minimum requirements.
The Arizona Democratic Party said it filed a complaint in Maricopa County Court in late March seeking to revoke the No Label Party’s recognition as a political party. No Labels registered as a not-for-profit organization and did not disclose its donors—which the State party argued meant it did not comply with political party requirements, including disclosing donors, registering with the FEC, and adhering to donation restrictions.
Meanwhile, a group of political veterans in Arizona launched Save Democratic Arizona, advocating open primaries and ranked-choice voting — a process that supporters say will incentivize candidates to appeal to moderate voters rather than their party’s. extreme voters. But as supporters work to put a ranked-choice initiative on next year’s ballot, Republican state lawmakers are seeking to advance their own ballot measure to ban any experimentation with the voting method.
While Sinema bills herself as an “independent voice” in a state roughly evenly split among Republicans, Democrats and independents, she could face challenges attracting independent support if she runs for re-election.
At a monthly meeting in Mesa this week, a group of frustrated independent voters came together to begin the petition process to organize ranked-choice voting. Some people support Sinema. But others, like Becky Wyatt, who remains an independent voter while maintaining her Democratic registration, said she felt the senator was inaccessible to Arizona voters.
“I gave her money. I donated money on behalf of my parents for their Christmas presents to support her,” Wyatt said. “She’s dead to me.”
Other members of the group said they believed Sinema had misled voters.
“Going to a party and then turning right and going independent after you’re done? That’s wrong. So she didn’t have my support,” said Brady Busby, an independent who attended the meeting.
“She’s just going to piss off a lot of people who are responsible for her electoral future,” said CJ Diegel, another independent.
Clint Smith, who ran for the crimson U.S. House seat outside Phoenix last year with 6 percent of the vote, said winning as an independent would be a tough challenge despite Sinema’s huge advantage in cash on hand and name recognition.
“I feel like people retreat into a corner in a pinch,” he said.
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