And Then There Were Two: Sinema Isn’t Running for Re-Election, Here’s What It Means

Political pundits not only here but across the country were salivating at the thought: a truly competitive three-way race for a US Senate race, one where the incumbent was actually polling in third place. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and in this case it did so before it truly got off the ground, as Senator Krysten Sinema announced that she will not be running for re-election.

It has been a favored issue here, pontificating on her political future. We asked the question of whether or not she actually would run again, given that she could easily step into a lobbying gig worth seven figures a year. But recent issues with Kari Lake had opened the door for Sinema to pull some Republican votes and capitalize off of the chaos surrounding the presumed Republican candidate. There was a possible lane there.

First, why did she decide this? We obviously cannot peer into the heart of the Senator. She did claim that increasing partisan rancor was the reason why, but she spent most of her time capitalizing off of this fact and leveraging it as one of the few swing votes, so it’s difficult to believe that this is the real reason.

That said, partisanship by the voting base likely played a role in electability, as Republicans and Democrats are more likely to come out to vote than those without party affiliation, and are most likely to vote for their own candidate. Unless voters are supremely unhappy with their voting options, it simply doesn’t allow for a strong pathway, and while the jury is still out with Kari Lake, there is no indication that Democrats are unhappy with Ruben Gallego.

So now, the political calculus gets much easier. Lake vs Gallego, Republican vs Democrat. One has been fully vetted in the eyes of the state, one hasn’t. Gallego sits in an unusual position politically: bombastic, not afraid to go on the attack (probably a result of his former time as a Marine), and while not a member of the hard left (and has notably criticized the Biden administration for its policies on immigration) he does have a voting record that can and will be used against him. He also has a bit of a checkered personal history, with a divorce and a history of being a bit of a wildcat.

How much of the latter comes to the surface will be one wild card in this race. Other than that, the weapons of war will likely be rather predictable: charges of both candidates being extremists in their own ways, and tens of millions of dollars of attack ads. Gallego is distancing himself from an unpopular president, and Lake will try to pin him to that same unpopular president. Gallego will try to ingratiate himself with an electorate that largely doesn’t know him, and Lake will try to define him before he has the chance to define himself.