AZ ’24 On My Mind

Kyrsten Sinema’s surprise announcement of last week has been on my mind for a few days and I think I may have sorted out its implications bit more. Much more importantly I have an idea of what impact it may have on the 2024 election. Let’s look at both of those for a few minutes.

In addition to the 2024 election (which I will cover in more details below) and the money involved in it; I think a part of what she did was simply a “pay attention to me” ploy. If you think about her behavior in general, she does like to be one of the centers of attention.

Sinema is basically a very far left liberal with a very pro-big business streak. The former is definitely her; the latter may be her but is more likely a matter of keeping her big donors (think investors) happy.

At this point 2024 looks to be an extremely challenging year if you are running the Democratic senatorial campaign. You start out with a 51-49 Senate, no apparent pickup opportunities and several Democratic held seats up in red or purple states. Those incumbents, assuming they choose to run, will need serious support. Further complicating the situation is that Sinema along with Joe Manchin of West Virginia are also up in 2024. Add to the mix is the fact that Sinema has fallen out of favor with the Arizona Democratic establishment and shows no sign of mending those bridges.

Even before Sinema’s surprise announcement of reregistering as an independent, it appeared that Arizona Representative Ruben Gallego was going to challenge her in the Democratic primary. It appeared he would have if not the explicit then at least the tacit support of the Arizona Democratic establishment and was favored to beat her. Sinema avoided a primary by preemptively moving to an independent slot.

A three-way race for Sinema’s seat in 2024 appears extremely likely with Gallego on the Democratic line and Sinema running as an independent. That leaves the Republican candidate as the mystery guest at this point. The Arizona GOP has turned very radical in recent years and they could just save the Democrats’ bacon in what looks like a sure Democratic loss at first glance. Or not.

If the Republicans are smart, they will run a center-right Republican with name recognition who won’t turn voters off. I’m far from an expert in Arizona politics but the names Doug Ducey and Rusty Bowers quickly come to mind. What Democrats have to hope for is that the MAGA nutcases prevail and the Republicans end up running one of their nutjobs like current AZ GOP State Chair Kelly Ward, failed ’22 Senate candidate Blake Masters or failed ’22 gubernatorial candidate Keri Lake.

Sinema may have saved the Democrats a difficult decision by turning independent. Now they will not fund her ’24 campaign at all. As a registered Democrat (on the unlikely prospect that she had won the primary) they would have had to expend resources in her race. What support Gallego gets from the national Democrats may well depend on who the Republican candidate is.

The other factor is that 2024 is a presidential year. For a Democrat like (presumably) Gallego that is a double edged sword. On the one hand turnout should be larger which will help him. On the other hand, a presidential campaign sucks up a ton of small donor money making personal fundraising even more challenging.

It’s early and a lot of water will spill over the dam between now and the 2024 general but I have Arizona ’24 on my mind today.

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