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‘The Most Compelling Political Science Experiment’: Experts Weigh In On Potential Three-Way Senate Race in Arizona

  • Arizona’s 2024 U.S. Senate race could feature a three-way matchup between independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego and former Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake.
  • The race would be highly contentious, as all three of them would be strong contenders with several factors at play, Arizona political experts told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
  • “The compelling story here is that all three of those individuals are extremely talented and filled with ability, and so there won’t be a shrinking violet among them,” Stan Barnes, Republican political consultant and owner of Copper State Consulting Group, told the DCNF. “I can argue a victory for each of them.”

Arizona’s 2024 U.S. Senate election is expected to be highly contentious and competitive as the campaign will likely feature a three-way race in the general election, experts told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who has yet to announce a reelection bid, currently holds the seat in question; Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego has already launched a Senate run and former Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake is weighing a bid. Arizona political strategists told the DCNF that there are various factors and scenarios at play that make this potential race highly contentious, and likely a tossup.

“It is looming on the horizon as the most compelling political science experiment in anyone’s memory in Arizona,” Stan Barnes, Republican political consultant and owner of Copper State Consulting Group, told the DCNF. “If we have a three-way race for the U.S. Senate, with three equally competent people that can hold their own on the debate stage, each having their own constituency, each having their own fundraising ability, each having their own hard-driving, articulate nature, then it’s really anyone’s guess as to how it’s all going to turn out.”

Barnes said Sinema running for reelection as an independent would be difficult in Arizona, as they’ve never elected a statewide official that was not affiliated with a party. Barnes believes that if any politician could win as an independent, it would be Sinema, due to “the benefits of incumbency,” her name recognition, her “charisma” and fundraising powers.

When Sinema ran for Senate in 2018, she raised $22.2 million, with the majority of funds coming from large individual donors, according to Open Secrets. Sinema ran as a Democrat and beat Republican Martha McSally, 50% to 47.6%.

“What we don’t know is, are Arizona voters ready for someone that does not identify with one of the two major political parties?” said Barnes.

Republicans make up roughly 35% of Arizona’s electorate, while Democrats and non-party affiliated voters account for 30% and 35% respectively, according to the Arizona Secretary of State’s office.

“Those in Arizona who are not Republican or not Democrat, they make up one-third of the electorate, but they don’t perform like one-third of the electorate,” said Barnes. “Republicans tend to turn out in better percentages; Democrats turn out higher in presidential years than non presidential years,” said Barnes.

It will be a “tough road” for Sinema to win as an independent because having a party infrastructure behind a candidate is “important,” and many “low-information voters” tend to vote party line down the ballot, Barrett Marson, an Arizona-based Republican political strategist and CEO of Marson Media, told the DCNF. He also “wouldn’t count her out,” as she has proven to be a great campaigner with a “true list of accomplishments she can tout.”

The main question in this race that remains to be seen is what major party voters Sinema will attract in the general election, which will largely determine the outcome of the race, said Barnes. He argues that because she recently left the Democratic Party, she will retain some of those voters from her “built-in base,” which could “damage” the Democrats and help the GOP candidate in the general election.

Marson believes that Democratic voters could stick with the “progressive” Gallego, who raised $2.9 million in his most recent victory in 2022, as some Democrat voters might be upset with Sinema for leaving the party, but he will first have to “introduce himself” to the state, Marson told the DCNF.

“He’s going to have to show why he would be better than Sinema to left-leaning independents and moderate Democrats,” said Marson.

“If [Lake] wins the primary, there are a lot of moderate Republicans and right-leaning independents who will probably flee…and vote for Sinema,” said Marson.

Lake, who raised a total of $15.9 million as a gubernatorial candidate, has been meeting with top Republicans, senators and staff from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and her “timeline” for making a decision will come in early Fall, Caroline Wren, spokesperson for Lake, told the DCNF.

“One of the only tools we have to push back against Joe Biden’s destruction of America is our Republicans in Washington,” said Wren. “Kari Lake looks forward to a jam-packed schedule with a number of media hits and meetings with GOP leaders to advance our shared America-First agenda.”

If she declared her candidacy, Lake would face declared candidate and Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb in the Republican primary, who Marson believes is also a “strong” contender. Lamb, who is the sheriff of a county near the U.S.-Mexico border, has a background and platform in dealing with the “single biggest issue” the state faces, which is illegal immigration, according to Marson.

While Lake is currently the frontrunner in the GOP primary, according to recent polling, Marson isn’t completely sold despite her high name ID. Lake has lost popularity in the state following her challenges to her gubernatorial loss in 2022, and her ties with former President Donald Trump aren’t helping her in the state, according to Marson.

If Trump becomes the Republican nominee for president and is on the ticket in 2024, Marson believes it will be a “problem” for whoever is the GOP candidate for Senate, while Barnes argues the opposite. President Joe Biden’s popularity has continued to decline since his 2020 victory in the state, and Barnes thinks the affect Biden’s presidency has had on the economy and international affairs will be a “drag” on whoever is the Democratic nominee.

“The compelling story here is that all three of those individuals are extremely talented and filled with ability, and so there won’t be a shrinking violet among them,” said Barnes. “I can argue a victory for each of them.”

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