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Arizona Democrat Ruben Gallego announces Senate bid in challenge to Kyrsten Sinema

<i>Francis Chung/Politico/AP</i><br/>Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego of Arizona
Francis Chung/Politico/AP
Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego of Arizona

By Kate Sullivan and Kyung Lah, CNN

Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego of Arizona on Monday announced his campaign for US Senate, setting up a potential 2024 clash with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who recently switched her party affiliation from Democrat to independent.

Gallego, a Phoenix-area congressman and retired Marine who served in Iraq, released a video of him telling a group of fellow veterans about his decision to run.

“You’re the first group of people that are hearing this besides my family. I will be challenging Kyrsten Sinema for the United States Senate, and I need all of your support,” Gallego, 43, told the group at a veterans organization in Guadalupe, Arizona.

Sinema has faced fierce criticism from Democrats for opposing elements of President Joe Biden‘s agenda. Early last year, while the Arizona senator was still a Democrat, Gallego said some Democratic senators were urging him to run for her seat. Sinema said in December she was switching parties, though she continues to caucus with Senate Democrats and has not said publicly whether she will run for reelection.

“Most families feel that they are one or two paychecks away from going under. That is not the way that we should be living in this country,” Gallego said in his announcement video. “The rich and the powerful, they don’t need more advocates. It’s the people that are still trying to decide between groceries and utilities that need a fighter for them.”

Gallego, who is of Colombian and Mexican descent, would be Arizona’s first Latino senator, if elected. He spoke in both English and Spanish in his announcement video and described the hardship and financial instability his family faced when he was growing up

Gallego said his mother, an immigrant, would “cry, like, every night, being stressed out about how she was gonna raise, like, four kids on a secretary’s salary, you know, with an absent father.”

“Fue una experiencia muy dura,” Gallego added in Spanish, which translates to: “It was a very hard experience.”

Gallego was first elected to the House in 2014. He is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and also chaired the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ campaign arm, BOLD PAC, during the 2022 cycle.

The Arizona Democrat in his announcement video described suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following his deployment to Iraq in 2005.

“Losing all my friends, consistently being shot at and people trying to blow you up all the time — you never really fully come back from war. You’re not the same person,” Gallego said. “Fighting through PTSD, there were some very low moments in my life. But I still didn’t give up. I pushed forward. I found a new way to keep serving.”

Potential GOP contenders

Philip Letsou, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, responded to Gallego’s announcement in a statement: “The Democrat civil war is on in Arizona. Chuck Schumer has a choice: stand with open borders radical Ruben Gallego or back his incumbent, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema.”

Several Republicans are considering running for Sinema’s seat. Defeated Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake is considering a Senate bid, according to a source close to Lake.

Lake lost the Arizona governor’s race in November to Democrat Katie Hobbs by less than 1 point and has not conceded, falsely claiming as recently as Sunday that she won the election. An Arizona judge in December rejected Lake’s lawsuit attempting to overturn her defeat, concluding there wasn’t clear or convincing evidence of misconduct. Lake, a serial promoter of election lies who denies the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, has appealed the court’s decision. The source told CNN that Lake will not make a final decision on a Senate run until after her court case is completed.

Republican Blake Masters, who lost a challenge in November to incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly by almost 5 points, is also “strongly considering” running for Senate in 2024, according to a spokesperson. Masters has also denied the outcome of the 2020 election but, unlike Lake, conceded his race to Kelly.

Karrin Taylor Robson, who lost to Lake in last year’s Republican primary despite being endorsed by the state’s GOP governor at the time, Doug Ducey, also indicated she could be open to a Senate bid.

“Instead of providing a check on the radical Biden agenda, our Senators continue to enable his disastrous policies, which have been terrible for Arizona,” the former member of the Arizona Board of Regents told CNN in a statement. “While I’m still deciding how I can best serve the state that I love, I agree with the many Arizonans who have reached out, and who, like me, are hopeful that our party will nominate a strong, authentic conservative who will not snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.”

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