Sinema has not yet announced whether or not she will run for reelection.
A new poll of Arizona voters paints a bleak portrait of US Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s path to reelection, as questions emerge surrounding the independent senator’s wealthy donors and extravagant use of campaign funds.
In an internal study confirmed by The Copper Courier, the polling firm Public Policy Polling surveyed 559 Arizona voters and found that nearly every potential US Senate candidate polled better than Sinema. Democratic US Rep. Ruben Gallego, who launched his campaign in January, was the preferred choice in every match-up.
Public Policy Polling squared up three potential Republican candidates against Gallego and Sinema: former Fox 10 anchor and failed 2022 gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb, and solar mogul and failed 2022 US Senate candidate Jim Lamon. Here’s how the candidates fared:
Gallego Confident in Democratic Support
The poll results dispel the idea that Gallego and Sinema would split the Democratic vote, leaving the Senate seat to be reclaimed by Republicans. In fact, of those polled who selected Sinema, 42% voted for Donald Trump in 2020, while only 9% voted for Biden, suggesting that Sinema would siphon more Republican voters than Democrats.
Gallego’s campaign believes his strong polling numbers are a direct result of the way he’s represented Arizona in Congress.
“Sinema let the child tax credit expire; Ruben fought to keep it. Sinema negotiated to keep drug prices high; Ruben fought to lower them. Sinema fought to keep tax loopholes for billionaires; Ruben fought to close them,” Carina Chacon, a press consultant for Gallego’s campaign, told The Copper Courier. “Arizona voters know that Ruben Gallego is the only candidate in this race on their side.”
A Slow Burn
Dissatisfaction with Sinema began to rise in 2021, with her commitment to defending a Senate rule known as the filibuster, which effectively means it takes 60 votes to pass most major legislation. By refusing to eliminate or reform the filibuster, Sinema became a figurehead of gridlock, effectively sidelining legislation to protect voting rights and address other major issues prioritized by Democratic voters and activists.
As noted by Gallego, the filibuster was also used to block an extension of the child tax credit, a pandemic-era policy that brought most households an additional $250-300 per month per child. While a bill to extend the credit —co-sponsored by Gallego—passed in the US House in 2021, it failed to receive the 60 votes required by the filibuster to bring it to a vote in the US Senate.
Sinema also blocked a proposal that would have drastically reduced the cost of prescription drugs, though she ultimately voted to pass the Inflation Reduction Act, which capped the cost of insulin for seniors on Medicare, implemented a $2,000 out-of-pocket limit on prescription drugs for seniors, and will lower the price of a handful of drugs in the future. As that law was being negotiated however, she successfully defended a tax loophole designed by and for wealthy private equity companies.
The senator has also shied away from meeting with constituents, further alienating many of those who helped her win in 2018 Carefully orchestrated roundtable discussions became a staple for the senator, but in-person town halls and events open to the public have been few and far between. Before switching parties, she also received criticism for failing to campaign with fellow Democrats. Sinema was notably absent from the campaign of her counterpart in the US Senate, Mark Kelly last year. Gallego, on the other hand, was front and center.
Sinema’s Crown Achievements
Sinema does have some legislative wins she can point to, however. She was able to work within the confines of the filibuster to broker a number of proposals (which were also supported by Gallego). Last June, Sinema sponsored the Bipartisan Communities Safety Act, which expanded background check requirements for gun purchases, added harsher penalties for arms trafficking, and added restrictions on gun purchases for households where anyone is guilty of domestic violence. The bill also represented one of the biggest-ever national investments in mental healthcare.
Sinema was also a central figure in passing the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022, which could bring billions of dollars and thousands of jobs to Arizona, a state that has positioned itself as a leading force in semiconductor manufacturing. Both pieces of legislation were supported by Gallego and virtually every other Democrat in the House and Senate.
Despite these achievements, Sinema’s obstruction of more liberal priorities and her failure to try to appeal to the Democratic base has left a bad taste in Democratic voters’ mouths. While winning over Republicans and independents is crucial in Arizona, Sinema’s efforts have not helped her much with those groups, either.
In each contest in Public Policy Polling’s survey, all three Republicans polled ahead of Sinema by double digits. Gallego won all three match-ups handily, besting even his closest potential opponent, Kari Lake, by seven points.
“While it has long been clear that Sinema doesn’t have the ability to win in 2024, Public Policy Polling also confirmed that Sinema will not even be able to siphon enough Democratic votes to act as a spoiler against Ruben,” Gallego’s campaign noted. “Ruben wins all three-way matchups against tested Republican candidates Kari Lake, Mark Lamb, and Jim Lamon.”
Reelection Plans Uncertain
Sinema has not yet announced whether or not she will run for reelection and has repeatedly sidestepped any questions regarding a potential campaign. She has also avoided responding to questions regarding her use of campaign funds. The New York Post recently reported that the Senator has spent over 100,000 on expensive meals, limo rides, and premium wine.
As previously reported by The Associated Press, more than a quarter of Sinema’s campaign contributions in the first quarter of 2023 came from people who work for three private equity firms, which benefited from Sinema’s move to thwart her party’s goal of raising taxes on wealthy investors.
Less than $6,000 of Sinema’s first-quarter haul came from small donors who gave less than $200.
Gallego, by contrast, announced that 99% of contributions to his campaign came from small-dollar donations, with the average amount given being $35.
“We outraised Kyrsten Sinema, we have 106,000 individual donations coming from all over Arizona, all across the country,” Gallego said in a public statement. “This is really a campaign that is going to thrive.”
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