Arizona Senate Race: GOP Navigates Tricky Terrain

As incumbent and former Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) contemplates her political future, the ripples are being felt across Arizona’s political landscape. The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) recently launched an advertisement to delineate the Senate contest as a clear choice between conservative values and liberal agendas. Yet, the full story in Arizona, a state with a nearly even split among Republican, independent and Democratic voters, tells a more nuanced story.

Sinema’s potential reelection bid throws a wrench into the traditional two-party fight, causing concern among Republicans who fear her candidacy might inadvertently aid the Democrats. The NRSC ad titled “A Choice” attacks Sinema for voting with President Joe Biden “100%” of the time, a claim at odds with her track record of opposing parts of his agenda, including the filibuster and the Build Back Better plan. It also targets candidate Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), labeling him a “deadbeat dad.”

The Republican strategy seems to frame the election as a two-horse race: a true Republican versus two Democrats. Yet, some within the state express doubts about this tactic. An anonymous Arizona Republican insider voiced concerns that the NRSC’s attacks on Sinema don’t align with her well-known defiance of parts of Joe Biden’s agenda. There’s a palpable fear that Gallego could benefit from a split conservative vote, which would be “a real nightmare” for the GOP.

Meanwhile, Sinema has positioned herself as a centrist, potentially attracting Republicans who may not favor Kari Lake, the America First candidate who lost the 2022 gubernatorial race under suspicious circumstances.

A seasoned Arizona operative, Chuck Coughlin, suggests that Sinema’s bipartisan approach might appeal to some Republicans. An internal memo from the Sinema team revealed a strategy targeting a significant slice of Republican and independent voters, believing she is more viable amongst those groups.

Meanwhile, Gallego is leading in early polls, not least because Lake appears to be losing some Republican support to Sinema. Barrett Marson, a Republican strategist, warns not to put too much stock into these early numbers but acknowledges that if Sinema runs, she could draw votes from Republicans.

The Senate contest in Arizona remains a polling toss-up. It is a battlefield where the decision of an independent Senator could tilt the balance of power. With under a year to go and the political sands in Arizona prone to shifting, Republicans remain vigilant, Democrats cautiously optimistic, and the voters, as ever, hold the key.