Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., prepares for a House Armed Services Committee markup in Rayburn Building on the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 on Wednesday, June 12, 2019.
Tom Williams | CQ-Roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images
Rep. Ruben Gallego’s Senate campaign said Tuesday it raised more than $1 million in one day after the Democrat launched his bid for Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s coveted seat in the 2024 election cycle.
More than 27,000 donations contributed to the haul, breaking an Arizona record for the most contributions in a campaign’s first 24 hours, the campaign said in a press release.
The Gallego campaign said it broke that record, which was previously held by incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly, in just eight hours.
“I’m proud to announce that we received more donations from real people on our first day than Senator Sinema has in the last three years combined,” Gallego said in the press release.
A spokeswoman for Sinema declined to comment, but pointed to a recent radio interview in which the senator said she is “going to stay focused on the work I have ahead of us.”
“There’s a lot of really important work left on the table to get done for Arizona,” Sinema said in that Friday interview.
The early windfall for Gallego’s Senate bid came as Sinema, who recently ditched the Democratic Party to become an independent, has yet to announce if she will seek reelection in 2024.
Sinema and a handful of other centrist Democrats had enjoyed enormous influence when the Senate was split 50-50 between the two parties, with Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris wielding the tie-breaking vote. They repeatedly angered their fellow Senate Democrats after refusing to back, or forcing major changes on, big pieces of President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda and other key votes.
That Senate math shifted after Democrats outperformed expectations in the November midterms, extending their hold to an outright Senate majority, 51-49. When Sinema left the Democratic Party last month, she called the change “a reflection of who I’ve always been.”
But she also signaled she will continue to caucus with the Democrats, a stance that has helped the president’s party pass bills that helped make the 117th Congress one of the most productive in years.
By defecting from the Democrats, Sinema will also avoid competing in a Democratic primary fight if she chooses to run again — a prospect that could lead to a three-way general election.
Despite his campaign’s initial fundraising spike, Gallego’s Senate run comes amid skepticism that a more progressive candidate can win statewide in Arizona, where Republicans and “other” voters both outnumber Democrats.
Some Democrats on Capitol Hill have tread carefully when asked about the race.
“Senator Sinema is an excellent Congress member and Senate member and she has done a lot of good things here, but it’s much too early to make a decision,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., told reporters Tuesday.
Their predicament was welcome news to Republicans.
“Senator Sinema has been an important part of the United States Senate, and the most important thing she did was to save the institution itself by protecting the filibuster,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
“I think it is a big dilemma for the Senate Democratic majority to decide whether to support her or to support somebody running on the Democratic ticket,” McConnell said.
Democrats face a difficult path to holding their slim Senate majority next year. Early projections of the electoral map show Democrats, and the independents who caucus with them, defending more Senate seats than Republicans. That includes Arizona, which the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics just labeled a “toss up.”