Arizona Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego said on Wednesday that lawmakers in the House and even “some senators” are encouraging him to run against Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who left the Democratic Party last week and registered as an independent.
“There have been some senators that have encouraged me to run,” Gallego told CBS News. “There are some senators, some of Sen. Sinema’s colleagues, that are encouraging me to run.”
Gallego did not identify which of Sinema’s Senate colleagues are telling him to run against her. But he predicted they would “absolutely” support him if he decides to run for Senate next year.
Sinema stunned political observers and infuriated progressives (again) on Dec. 9 when she announced she was switching to an independent, citing increasingly partisan interests and radicalization in both parties in an op-ed for the Arizona Republic.
“Americans are told that we have only two choices – Democrat or Republican – and that we must subscribe wholesale to policy views the parties hold, views that have been pulled further and further toward the extremes,” Sinema wrote in the op-ed.
“Most Arizonans believe this is a false choice, and when I ran for the U.S. House and the Senate, I promised Arizonans something different,” she continued. “I pledged to be independent and work with anyone to achieve lasting results. I committed I would not demonize people I disagreed with, engage in name-calling, or get distracted by political drama.”
Her announcement pulled out the rug from Democratic senators, who would have held a 51-49 majority in the Senate after Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., won re-election to a full term in the Georgia runoff.
While Democrats will now have to settle for a 50-seat majority, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., has permitted Sinema to keep her committee assignments, indicating she may continue to caucus with the Democrats as independent senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine do.
Even so, Sinema has long frustrated progressives by holding up major Biden administration legislative initiatives and refusing to abolish the filibuster. Before she became an independent, left-wing activists in Arizona had stated their intention to support a primary challenger against Sinema for the upcoming 2024 election, with Gallego’s name often floated as a prospective candidate.
Gallego accused Sinema of “putting her own interests” ahead of Arizonans after she announced the switch, fueling speculation that he intends to run. He told CBS News Wednesday that his decision to run won’t be influenced by what other senators think and that he won’t consult with Schumer before making an announcement.
“[Schumer] will not determine my future,” Gallego said. “Again, it’s the people of Arizona and my family. He is not in a position even to make decisions. He has to balance the needs of the caucus first. And by the time they figure out what they, how they’re going to balance Sinema still being there and me running for office, it’s going to be too late. So, once I make my decision, I’ll go and then we’ll talk to him at some point if he wants to.”
Fox News’ Kyle Morris contributed to this report.