Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) is reportedly preparing to run for a second Senate term, only this time as an independent — setting the stage for what is likely to be a competitive three-way race in the key swing state.
Sinema has not yet announced whether she intends for reelection, but if she does, she’s set to face opponents from both sides of the political spectrum. The Arizona senator met with her team in Phoenix earlier this week to discuss a possible timeline of announcing her campaign, according to meeting notes reviewed by the Wall Street Journal.
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Some of the notes break down the timeline stretching through the end of 2023, with her team planning to complete polling and opposition research by October and finalizing a campaign staff by Dec. 31, according to the outlet. Much of her campaign messaging will center on Sinema’s reputation as a centrist and her bipartisanship, including efforts to bridge the two parties while she was still a Democrat in the last Congress.
“Kyrsten is an independent voice for Arizona,” one PowerPoint slide reads, according to the outlet. “As Arizona’s senior senator, she’s committed to ignoring partisan politics, shutting out the noise and delivering real results helping everyday Arizonans build better lives for themselves and their families.”
Sinema has already filed her candidacy with the Federal Election Commission, identifying herself as an independent. The senator has not announced a reelection campaign, but filing one’s candidacy is required to begin fundraising.
To appear on the Arizona ballot as an independent candidate, Sinema will need to gather at least 40,000 signatures from voters who do not belong to a political party, according to state rules. Running as an independent will allow her to avoid a primary, but Sinema is likely to face an uphill battle as she faces both a Democrat and Republican in the general election.
Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) launched a challenge to ex-Democrat Sinema in January, raising concerns that his presence in the race could split the electorate and hand a win to the Republican nominee.
The GOP primary field has not yet taken shape, although it’s expected that failed gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake could launch a Senate bid in the coming months. She would face Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb, who is set to announce his candidacy sometime next week.
Gallego has emerged as the front-runner in the 2024 Senate race, besting Sinema and other GOP challengers in preliminary polling. Gallego leads the field in any three-way race between himself, Sinema, and a Republican, according to a February OH Predictive Insights survey.
The Senate race in Arizona is shaping up to be one of the most crucial contests for Democrats as they seek to maintain Senate control in 2024. Democrats currently hold a 51-49 majority in the Senate, with the advantage of having Vice President Kamala Harris as a tiebreaker vote if needed.
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There are a total of 34 Senate seats up for grabs in the 2024 election cycle. Of these, Democrats must defend 23, compared to just 11 for Republicans. The circumstance puts Republicans in a strong position to flip some crucial Senate seats that could easily shift the current balance of power in the upper chamber.
The Senate seat in Arizona has been rated a "toss-up" by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, making it one of the most competitive races so far.