by Tom Raabe
Of all the low-hanging senatorial fruit in 2024 — see red states with blue senators in West Virginia, Montana, and Ohio, to name three — if not the ripest for conservative pickup, then at least the juiciest might be the three-way contest that is liable to heat up in the Arizona desert.
There, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (picture above, middle), Democrat-turned-independent incumbent, if she decides to defend her seat, will face an extreme progressive challenger on the left and, possibly, one of the Trumpiest of Trumpists on the right, Kari Lake (picture above, right), who may find herself in a primary battle with a slightly lesser Trumpist in Blake Masters, who lost the other Senate seat in 2022 to Mark Kelly.
Of the four, only Ruben Gallego (pictured above, left), a Democrat State House representative from the Phoenix area, has officially thrown his hat into the ring. He’s tapping leftist rage at the maverick manque Sinema, who reaped the wrath of the Democrat establishment by bucking party bosses on filibuster reform and tax hikes, as well as noising somewhat sane border policies — anathema to the leftist powers that be — and, seeing her political path forward moving to a middle lane, bolted the Dems for independent status in 2022. Gallego has reportedly outraised Sinema for two consecutive quarters, which puts a dent into the incumbent’s $7 million cash-on-hand advantage, and is polling better with Dems than the Senate’s premier clotheshorse.
With the liberal vote being split by an out-and-out progressive vying with a bona fide liberal who leans toward the middle when it suits her, in a state that Biden won by 0.4 percent in 2020, Republicans look to have more than a fighting chance to put the Grand Canyon State in the Senate win column in 2024.
The only candidate officially in on the GOP side is Mark Lamb, Pinal County sheriff who brings law enforcement and immigration bona fides and could appeal to old-school Arizona Republicans.
A Likely Lake Campaign
It’s the Republican candidates who haven’t announced that boast the marquee names. Lake, while still not conceding the 2022 gubernatorial race, has nearly exhausted the Arizona court system seeking redress for voting irregularities, particularly in the state’s most populous county, Maricopa County. An appeal before the Arizona Supreme Court is slated to be heard later in September on whether the county properly verified signatures on ballot affidavit envelopes. Another, presented to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Tuesday (in coordination with losing Secretary of State candidate Mark Finchem), asks that body to reconsider the dismissal of their lawsuit seeking to ban electronic voting systems.
Many believe her odds of success in these tribunals are slim and that she will eventually jump into the Senate race, as she has teased in countless media venues, including last week on the Limbaugh successor, the Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show.
She is also said to be in the running for Trump’s vice presidential choice and has been rumored to be so eager for the nod as to put off 45 himself. Failing the VP nod, though, chances are she seeks the Senate seat. And chances are, she’ll have to beat out her partner on Team Lake and Blake from 2022, Blake Masters, for the GOP nomination.
The Wall Street Journal opined at the end of August that Masters would be announcing forthwith, adding that, between the former newscaster and him, Lake would be the favorite for the nomination if she runs. Reports are also afloat that Peter Thiel, the venture capitalist who backed Masters’ run in 2022, will not become involved financially in a 2024 race.
Trump, for his part, has not indicated which Republican he will endorse. And Biden, when he was in the Grand Canyon State in August to dedicate a new national monument, found himself on stage next to Sinema, with Gallego reportedly too busy overseeing his son’s first day of first grade to attend the event. The Phoenix rep did meet with Biden on the tarmac in Phoenix when the president arrived, however. Who Biden will endorse is still somewhat murky.
Even though Arizona is somewhat unique in that party registration is split three ways in the state — independents tally about 34.5 percent of registered voters, with Republicans at 34.4 percent and Democrats at 30 percent — one would think that if Lake were to secure the nomination and marshal the same support in the general that she did in the 2022 gubernatorial race, she would overcome a split liberal vote and win the Senate seat comfortably. She was, after all, within about 17,000 votes of Gov. Katie Hobbs.
The Story the Polls Tell
A recent poll, however, paints a far more competitive picture. A July poll of 1,000 Arizona registered voters found Gallego beating all comers in head-to-head battles. He bested Lamb by 4 points (40 percent–36 percent) in a straight-up competition. Throw Sinema’s name into the mix, and Gallego beats Lamb by 8 points (33 percent–25 percent) and Sinema by 9 (33 percent–24 percent), with 18 percent undecided.
Add the likely GOP names to the contest, and Gallego still dominates over Lake (45 percent–35 percent) in head-to-head, with a three-way race including Sinema coming out like this: Gallegos, 34 percent; Sinema, 26 percent; Lake, 25 percent; with 15 percent undecided.
Gallego beats Masters straight up by a similar margin: 44 percent–36 percent. Run those numbers three ways, and it’s Gallegos, 32 percent; Sinema, 28 percent; Masters, 24 percent; with 16 percent undecided.
But that’s one poll a year and two months out from the election. These are early days, and much could change before votes are actually cast.
It’s a good election cycle for Republicans to attempt to retake the upper chamber. Twenty Democrats are up for reelection against only 11 Republicans, with two independents also defending their seats. The GOP needs to flip two seats to regain control of a body that currently stands 51–49 Democrat, and with at minimum three blue senators in solid red states, that looks doable.
But, then, that’s what we said prior to the nonexistent “red wave” of 2022.
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Tom Raabe is a writer, editor, and contributor to The American Spectator living in Tempe, Arizona.
Photo “Sen. Kyrsten Sinema” by Sen. Kyrsten Sinema; “Ruben Gallego” by Ruben Gallego; and Kari Lake is by Kari Lake. Background photo “U.S. Capitol Plaza is by Carol Highsmith.