Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema announced Friday she is leaving the Democratic Party to register as an independent.
Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema announced Friday she is leaving the Democratic Party to register as an independent. Sinema does not plan to join the Republican Conference, guaranteeing Democrats will retain control of the Senate.
- The first-term senator explained her thinking in an op-ed published in the Arizona Republic. Sinema declared she was “declaring my independence from the broken partisan system in Washington” by registering as “an Arizona independent.”
- Sinema and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) held the balance of power in the Senate during the first half of Biden’s presidency, using the leverage afforded them by the longest-lasting 50-50 Senate split in U.S. history to push through their legislative priorities.
- Along those lines, Sinema justified her move by pointing to her efforts to pass bipartisan legislation on rebuilding infrastructure, alleviating the western drought, expanding veterans’ benefits, and protecting same-sex marriage access as evidence she’s been an independent voice for Arizona.
- As Sinema told Jake Tapper in a Friday morning CNN interview, “I’ve never fit neatly into any party box. I’ve never really tried. I don’t want to.”
- “Removing myself from the partisan structure,” she continued, “not only is it true to who I am and how I operate, I also think it’ll provide a place of belonging for many folks across the state and the country who also are tired of the partisanship.”
- The senior senator from Arizona informed Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer and the White House of her decision on Thursday but did not address whether she would seek a second term in 2024. Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego had been considering a primary challenge before her switch and appears likely to run for the now-open Democratic nomination for Senate.
- Republicans have not won a federal election in Arizona since then-Sen. John McCain won his final term by a wide margin in 2016 at the same time Donald Trump narrowly defeated Hillary Clinton. The Arizona G.O.P. would go on to lose three consecutive Senate elections in 2018, 2020, and 2022, the presidential election in 2020, and the governorship in 2022.
- CNN called Sinema’s decision part of a pattern of “against-the-grain thinking” for the Arizona senator, “who began her political career as a member of the Green Party before being elected as a Democrat to the US House in 2012 and US Senate in 2018.
- Sinema has worked to model her Senate career on the late Sen. John McCain, The Washington Post observed. Like McCain, Sinema’s “maverick” tendencies have produced bipartisan legislation while infuriating her party’s base.
- As The New York Times noted, Senators switching parties mid-term isn’t unheard of. Then-Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman left the Democratic Party to become an independent in 2006, while then-Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania switched from Republican to Democrat in 2009.
- As National Review’s Jim Geraghty wrote, “Gee, Democrats, maybe you shouldn’t have chased Kyrsten Sinema into the bathroom last October . . . and after those feces-flinging howler monkeys did that, maybe you should have denounced them more loudly and made Sinema feel like you cared about her.” To Geraghty, the takeaway is clear: “Democrats blew their chance with Sinema.”
- “Sinema was the last holdout on a pared-back yet still expansive version of the bill, the Inflation Reduction Act, but she ultimately voted for the legislation earlier this year,” The Washington Examiner noted. Sinema has also been a stalwart opponent of Democratic efforts to create a “filibuster carve-out” on abortion and voting-related bills.
- As Fox News observed, Sinema’s move could complicate Democratic efforts to organize the Senate and committee assignments for the next Congress. Sinema said she would retain her Democratic committee assignments but has not yet said if she’ll officially caucus with the Democrats.
© Dominic Moore, 2022