Democrats dodge questions about Rubén Gallego vs. kyrsten sinema

Top Senate Democrats deflected and dodged questions about Democratic Rep. Rubén Gallego’s decision to challenge independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema in Arizona, reflecting the party establishment’s expectant attitude toward a crucial Senate race they hope to hold. in 2024.

Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the second-ranked Democrat in the Senate, said it is “too early” to say whether he would back Gallego or the eventual Democratic nominee in the race.

“We don’t even know who is running for any office in any state,” he added Monday.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin), who worked closely with Sinema on legislation protecting same-sex marriage late last year, also said it was too early to comment.

“We don’t know who is running. It’s premature,” Baldwin said. He repeated the word “premature” four more times as reporters peppered her with questions as she stepped into a Senate elevator.

Sinema’s decision to leave the Democratic Party has put top Democratic officials, from President Joe Biden to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to fellow Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), in a grip. Sticky Situation: Do they support Sinema, whose vote may be needed to confirm Biden’s crucial nominees? Either back Gallego or another potential Democratic candidate, who will almost certainly be backed by the state party and the vast majority of rank-and-file Arizona Democrats.

So far, their response has been unanimous: Ask me later. In a statement, for example, the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee declined to address Sinema or Gallego.

“Republicans have suffered overwhelming defeats in the Senate in Arizona for the last three election cycles in a row, and we are confident that we will stop the Republicans from trying to fill this Senate seat,” said spokeswoman Nora Keefe.

Schumer also declined to comment when asked about the matter on Monday.

Sinema has so far refused to say whether she plans to run for a second term after winning her first as a Democratic Party member in 2018, becoming an independent and leaving the Democratic caucus only after an unexpectedly strong performance for state Democrats in the partial exams of 2022.

That has led some Democrats to quietly wait for him to decide to retire rather than run. Recent early polls for the race have shown her a distant third behind Gallego and a Republican candidate.

“Someone in the administration should be looking for a wine-producing country that needs an ambassador,” said a Democratic operative, who requested anonymity to avoid antagonizing Sinema, a known oenophile.

Still, Gallego has been able to quickly assemble a top-tier Democratic consulting team: New Deal Strategies, who was the quarterback of Sen. John Fetterman’s (D-Pa.) successful 2022 bid, is his general counsel. GBAO Strategies, a major Democratic firm, is his pollster. And Aisle 518, another well-respected firm, is handling its digital fundraising.

If Democratic leaders wanted to block a Gallego candidacy, they could have signaled the party’s top consultants not to work for him. They deliberately did not. Instead, two leading Democratic consulting firms have It stopped working for Sinema in the past year, and will lose access to NGP VAN, the party’s voter database, at the end of the month.

“The moment he left the Democratic Party, he opened up the entire Democratic operating field to Gallego,” said a source familiar with Gallego’s campaign who asked to remain anonymous to speak candidly about internal campaign operations.

The hands-off approach also reflects a revised Senate Democratic strategy of staying out of primaries and party infighting. For years, Schumer was famous for offering early endorsements to key candidates and working to clear the field for his picks.

but after a somewhat disappointing In the 2020 Senate cycle, the DSCC and the broader party apparatus largely withdrew from initial endorsements in 2022. With Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) returning to lead the committee for the second straight cycle, the party is expected to continue to avoid choosing sides in 2024.

Even if the party establishment in DC continues to resist, the party base is making clear its desire to remove Sinema: On Monday, the day Gallego announced his offers, online donations to PAC Change For Arizona 2024, a progressive group dedicated to the expulsion of Sinema ― rose 300%.

Sinema declined to comment when asked about Gallego’s entry into the race and whether he planned to run for re-election.

“I wish I brought a coat because it’s very cold tonight,” the senator said as she left the Capitol on a windy Washington afternoon.

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