Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s decision last month to leave the Democratic Party was, in no small part, an attempt at political self-preservation. The Green Party-candidate-turned-independent-turned-Democrat-turned-independent, who has angered Democrats in her home state—and pretty much everywhere—by opposing majority-rule in the Senate, was facing a likely primary challenge from at least one, and possibly several big-name elected officials. On the day she announced her switch, Rep. Greg Stanton, the former mayor of Phoenix, shared a poll in which he led Sinema in a head-to-head contest by nearly 40 points.
Stanton ultimately passed on the race, but on Monday, Sinema got her first bona fide Democratic challenger: five-term Rep. Ruben Gallego.
Growing up poor, all I had was the American dream. It kept me going: as a kid sleeping on the floor, a student scrubbing toilets, a Marine losing brothers in Iraq.
Today, too many Arizonans see their dream slipping away. I’m running for the U.S. Senate to win it back for you! pic.twitter.com/ofUvUYRcTP
— Ruben Gallego (@RubenGallego) January 23, 2023
This is, really, everything you’d expect these days from a splashy campaign rollout video, an important part of an aspiring candidate’s list-building and fundraising program. In accordance with Federal Election Commission requirements, there’s a shot where Gallego does a voiceover while we watch Gallego looking thoughtful behind the wheel of a car. We even, in a slightly meta twist, get a glimpse of an announcement before the announcement, in which Gallego, a Marine, first informs a room of veterans that he’s entering the race.
Sinema’s name is only mentioned once, but the video previews an argument that’s likely to be at the forefront of the Democrats’ general-election campaign: Sinema, who saved private equity’s favorite tax break in 2021 and defended the filibuster at Davos just last week, isn’t listening to regular people. “The rich and the powerful—they don’t need more advocates,” Gallego says in the video. “If you’re more likely to be meeting with the powerful than the powerless, you’re doing this job incorrectly.” Gallego, a progressive, isn’t leading with any specific policy pledges, nearly two years ahead of the election. But like the Arizona Democratic Party itself, he’s signaling his dissatisfaction with the corporatist lean of the incumbent he once backed.