Since Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz., left the Democratic Party last year, she’s shed hundreds of donors who now give to the Democrat hoping to take her place in the U.S. Senate.
Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., has raised at least $393,000 in the first quarter of 2023 from more than 300 donors who previously gave to Sinema’s Senate campaign, according to an analysis of campaign finance records from the Arizona Republic.
The sum represents about one in four dollars Gallego raised from publicly disclosed donors in the first quarter, per the Republic, and was more than the $307,000 Sinema raised in the same time period from her own former donors.
“Sinema has repeatedly broken promises and left working Arizonans behind,” Rebecca Katz, a top consultant to the Gallego campaign, said in a statement to Deseret News. “She’s lost their trust — that’s why her donors are lining up behind Ruben and his vision for Arizona’s future.”
When she won her Senate race in 2018, Sinema became the first Democrat to win a U.S. Senate seat in Arizona in 30 years, but she hasn’t announced whether she’ll seek reelection next year. Whether she can win as an independent has been an open question since she left the Democratic Party last December.
As a moderate, Sinema sometimes upset her former party’s progressive wing, but in theory, Arizona could be friendly terrain for an independent candidate. Voters who identify as “other” represent about 34% of Arizona’s registered voters, according to the state, on par with registered Republicans and more than the roughly 30% who are registered Democrats.
A February poll from OHPredictive Insights, a Phoenix-based market research and data analytics firm, however, found Sinema coming in third behind Gallego and potential Republican candidates like former Gov. Doug Ducey, former Senate candidate Blake Masters, and former gubernatorial candidates Karrin Taylor-Robson and Kari Lake.
How well Sinema fares in a three-way race could depend in large part on the Republican nominee. Republican candidates aligned with former President Donald Trump have lost statewide races in recent years, and Sinema could have an easier time assembling a coalition of moderate and disaffected Republicans if the GOP nominates another Trump-aligned candidate.
So far, moderates Ducey and Taylor-Robson seem unlikely to run, and the only prominent declared Republican candidate is Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb, who’s expressed far-right views on COVID-19 and the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Sinema’s highest approval ratings are actually among Arizona Republicans, 42% of whom said they have a favorable opinion of her, followed by 35% of independents and 34% of Democrats.
Gallego is running to Sinema’s left, and he’s criticized her for caring more about monied interests than everyday Arizonans. His attacks resonate with many Democratic voters in the state, 53% of whom have an unfavorable opinion of Sinema. That’s an even higher percentage than her 46% unfavorable rating among Republicans.
Arizona’s 2022 U.S. Senate race between Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., and Masters cost $189.3 million and was the third-most expensive of the campaign cycle, according to Ad Impact, an ad tracking firm. Next year’s race is also expected to be pricey and it’s one of three U.S. Senate races rated a toss-up by the nonpartisan Cook Political report, along with Ohio and West Virginia.