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Gallego’s Arizona Senate bid gets boost from former McCain, Sinema donors

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Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego’s Arizona Senate bid is getting a boost from a group of donors who previously backed Republicans like the late Sen. John McCain and the independent incumbent he hopes to replace, Kyrsten Sinema.

The donors will host a fundraiser Saturday for Gallego, according to an invitation obtained by POLITICO. The event signals Gallego is making inroads in two areas GOP opponent Kari Lake is sharply focused on: money and moderates.

In their key Senate contest, Gallego and Lake are both openly courting a small but important bloc of voters who identify as independents or centrist Republicans.

Among the dozen hosts of Gallego’s Saturday fundraiser: Chuck Coughlin, a longtime Republican political consultant who left the party in the Trump era; Don Budinger, who donated to Sinema, McCain and Pennsylvania GOP Senate nominee Dave McCormick; and David Reese, a longtime GOP donor.

Both candidates have tried to drift toward the center. But Lake has thus far struggled to win over moderate voters despite an attempted pivot from her fiery 2022 campaign for governor.

That’s given Gallego an opening. His successful courtship of GOP donors is a sign that his efforts to shy away from his roots in the progressive wing of the Democratic Party are paying off.

Several of the hosts have donated to McCain, former GOP Sen. Martha McSally, current Rep. Juan Ciscomani, who represents a swing seat in Tucson, and former Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, a Trump critic.

Also on the host list: Phil Francis, a former PetSmart CEO who supported Sinema, and his wife, Nita; and former Phoenix Mayor Paul Johnson Jr., an ally of McCain.

Gallego has posted massive fundraising numbers, ending March with $9.6 million in the bank, compared to Lake’s $2.5 million. And he has used that funding to build an early TV ad advantage, running positive spots to define himself.

Democrats feel optimistic about Arizona because of Gallego’s financial advantage and Lake’s ties to the MAGA wing of the party that may harm her with independents. She’s endorsed by former President Donald Trump.

After telling McCain Republicans to “get the hell out” during her 2022 campaign, Lake has made an attempt to court them in her Senate run. But she has so far gotten few endorsements out of it and Republicans have begun to sound unsure whether they will fully support Lake financially in the fall.