Election denialism and the Big Lie suffered yet another defeat when, on Monday night, November 14, Arizona's gubernatorial election was called for Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs. It was a close race, but in the end, Hobbs prevailed over her GOP rival: far-right Big Lie promoter and conspiracy theorist Kari Lake, who campaigned on the false and thoroughly debunked claim that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump.
Lake's defeat follows the defeat of other MAGA candidates in Arizona, including Mark Finchem (who lost a secretary of state race to Democrat Adrian Fontes) and Blake Masters (who lost Arizona's U.S. Senate race by about 5 percent to incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly). Lake, Finchem and Masters were all backed by Trump, ran hyper-MAGA campaigns, and lost. In 2023, Arizona — once a deep red state and a bastion of Goldwater conservatism — will have a Democratic governor, a Democratic secretary of state, and two Democratic U.S. senators: Kelly and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema.
2022 has been a good year for Democrats in Arizona, where Kelly will continue to occupy the U.S. Senate seat once held by Sen. John McCain and before that, Sen. Barry Goldwater (a highly influential figure among conservatives and libertarians). But according to Rep. Ruben Gallego of Arizona, Sinema shouldn't be given any of the credit. The Democratic congressman, a vocal critic of Sinema, is arguing that she didn't do nearly enough to help fellow Arizona Democrats in the 2022 midterms.
In an article published by The New Republic on November 14, journalist Prem Thakker reports that Gallego is "going after Sen. Kyrsten Sinema for being 'nowhere to be found' leading up to the midterm elections." On November 13, Gallego (who was reelected in the midterms) tweeted, "We fought as a team in Arizona and we won. Senator Sinema was nowhere to be found, at all. We did not see her at one public event for anybody… she did nothing. Because she only cares about herself."
On November 9, Sinema tweeted, "Every vote counted, every voice heard. That's how our democracy works. It may take some time for the results to be finalized, so in the meantime, let's stay patient. Democracy is always worth the wait." And Gallego sarcastically responded, "Thanks for all your help this year."
It is no coincidence that Gallego is making a point of publicly criticizing Sinema. Liberals and progressives have been urging the Arizona congressman to give Sinema a Democratic primary challenge in 2024, when she will be up for reelection.
Thakker observes, "Five days before the election, former President Barack Obama visited Phoenix to rally support for the state's Democrats. Sinema was notably absent — not even to show support for Katie Hobbs, whose first foray in politics was volunteering for one of Sinema's state legislative races."
Gallego has not officially said that he plans to run for the Senate in 2024, but many liberals and progressives are hoping that he will. Sinema's decidedly centrist voting record has been a frequent source of frustration to the liberal/progressive wing of her party. But Sinema has her share of defenders, who point out that she polls well among independents, McCain Republicans, Blue Dog Democrats and Never Trump conservatives. GOP activist Meghan McCain, the late Sen. McCain's daughter and a scathing critic of Trump and Lake, has been a staunch Sinema defender despite their policy differences.
Sinema's defenders fear that if the liberal Gallego primaries her and wins the Democratic nomination, he might struggle against a Republican in the general election and risk putting that Senate seat back in GOP hands. But James Carville doesn't see it that way. The veteran Democratic strategist believes that Gallego has what it takes to go the distance.
In a February 2022 interview with Vox, Carville expressed his frustration with Sinema. When Carville was asked, "What kind of game is Sinema playing?" he responded, "I can't explain it, and no one else can. The only explanation people have given is that she wants to be the next John McCain. But she's not going to win a primary against Rep. Ruben Gallego, I'll tell you that damn much. And I will personally volunteer to help him fundraise because I think we can keep that seat if he runs…. I have no idea what the hell she's thinking."
That's saying a lot coming from Carville, who often cautions fellow Democrats against going too far to the left or being too "woke" and has been a champion of Bill Clinton/Barack Obama centrism. But he obviously believes that Sinema is too much of a contrarian for her own good.
Although Sinema is pro-choice, Gallego has argued that she hasn't been aggressive enough when it comes to defending reproductive rights.
Thakker notes, "In July, after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Gallego tweeted at Sinema, asking her to have a town hall and explain her opposition to forgoing the filibuster in order to codify the right to abortion. Later that month, Gallego's campaign fundraised on Facebook, teasing a potential primary challenge against Sinema in 2024."