Arizona, once a Republican stronghold, has become increasingly competitive. Since 2018, the Canyon State has replaced its two Republican senators with two Democrats. It’s left behind the days of Sen. Barry Goldwater, a conservative candidate for president in 1964.
However, the state is heading for a messy race next year… and it might swing back to the GOP.
That opening is very bad news if you’re Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
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Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb said Tuesday he’s running for the U.S. Senate in Arizona, becoming the first Republican to jump into a high-profile race for the seat held by former Democrat turned independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema.
The Arizona race is a top target for Republicans looking to take control of the Senate, which Democrats control 51-49, including Sinema and two other independents who generally vote with Democrats.
The 2024 Senate map heavily favors the GOP. Democratic-held seats will be up for grabs in three states Trump won. More to the point, some Democrats will be defending their seats in closely divided states, like Nevada and Arizona.
Republican victories would put Schumer out of his job as Senate Majority Leader in 2025.
Sinema, who left the Democratic Party in December after her relationship with many members of the party ruptured, is raising money for a potential reelection campaign but has not said whether she will seek a second term. U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego is the only Democrat in the race. He said last week he raised $3.7 million in the first quarter.
If Sinema runs for re-election, she may set up a messy, three-way race in the general election. She threatens to split the vote with the far-left Gallego, leaving the GOP to win the race in a walk.
Lamb, who has built a profile in Arizona and beyond as a staunch supporter of former President Donald Trump and an advocate for cracking down on illegal immigration and drug smuggling, pledged in a video announcing his candidacy to take on drug cartels, calling for the U.S. military to “wipe them out just like we did to ISIS.”
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Take a look —
As a law enforcement official and an American, I am disturbed by the indictment of President Trump. While felonies are being pled down or even dismissed in New York, the Soros-backed DA decided to upgrade a misdemeanor to indict a former President who posed no threat. Shameful! pic.twitter.com/1QDKq1QoYo
— Mark Lamb for US Senate (@sherifflamb1) March 31, 2023
Lamb could wind up in a crowded Republican primary and will likely face a formidable fight for the GOP nomination.
Kari Lake, a former television news anchor who became a star among many Republicans before losing the 2022 race for governor, is considering a Senate run and would be the immediate front-runner. Other potential candidates — Blake Masters, Jim Lamon, and Karrin Taylor Robson — all lost 2022 races for Senate or governor.
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All of Lamb’s potential Republican rivals have, to varying degrees, something the sheriff lacks — easy access to large sums of donor money. Lake can raise it from her legion of supporters, while the other potential candidates have personal fortunes or benefactors they can draw from. Lamb’s ability to raise money will be an early test of his viability.
Lamb said he’s confident he can win no matter which other Republicans decide to run because he can talk with authority about issues related to the border.
“There’s nobody better suited for the border, to deal with this crisis, to fight against the fentanyl, to stop the poisoning of our loved ones,” Lamb told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
Despite his aggressive proposals to send the military to defeat drug cartels, Lamb said the U.S. should work in partnership with the Mexican government.
Arizona Republicans have remained hellbent on relitigating the last presidential election. Last year, the state GOP nominated a slate of statewide candidates fixated on 2020. The GOP’s statewide candidates all lost in the general election. This time, some in the party are fearing a repeat that could hinder their path to a Senate majority.
Lamb appeared to distance himself from Lake this month, saying he hasn’t seen evidence of “material, large-scale fraud” that he could take to a jury. Lamb’s own Pinal County had serious issues last year that were blamed on ineptitude rather than fraud.
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“Where I thought there was smoke, I looked for fire,” Lamb said in an interview with the Phoenix Fox affiliate. “I got involved with some of the groups that were actively out saying they had evidence. To this day, I’ve never been provided any evidence of significant material fraud.”
Lamb experienced tragedy late last year when his 22-year-old son, the son’s fiancée and their 1-year-old daughter were killed in a car crash. He said his son, Cooper Lamb, had struggled with fentanyl use and spent time in jail but had been sober for more than a year before the crash.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.