The 2024 election was already in high gear but the U.S. Senate race in Arizona certainly is off to an interesting start:
Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema is leaving the Democratic Party and registering as a political independent, she told CNN’s Jake Tapper in an exclusive TV interview.
“I’ve registered as an Arizona independent. I know some people might be a little bit surprised by this, but actually, I think it makes a lot of sense,” Sinema said in a Thursday interview with Tapper in her Senate office.
“I’ve never fit neatly into any party box. I’ve never really tried. I don’t want to,” she added. “Removing myself from the partisan structure – 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.”
Sinema’s move away from the Democratic Party is unlikely to change the power balance in the next Senate. Democrats will have a narrow 51-49 majority that includes two independents who caucus with them: Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine.
While Sanders and King formally caucus with Democrats, Sinema declined to explicitly say that she would do the same. She did note, however, that she expects to keep her committee assignments – a signal that she doesn’t plan to upend the Senate composition, since Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer controls committee rosters for Democrats.
“When I come to work each day, it’ll be the same,” Sinema said. “I’m going to still come to work and hopefully serve on the same committees I’ve been serving on and continue to work well with my colleagues at both political parties.”
But Sinema’s decision to become a political independent makes official what’s long been an independent streak 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 prided herself on being a thorn in the side of Democratic leaders, and her new nonpartisan affiliation will further free her to embrace an against-the-grain status in the Senate, though it raises new questions about how she – and Senate Democrats – will approach her reelection in 2024 with liberals already mulling a challenge.
Key factor here:
And that means it’s time for a real Democrat to win this seat:
Meanwhile, speculation abounds over potential challengers for Sinema’s seat in Congress during the 2024 election. O’Keefe reported Sinema still has not signaled whether she will run again and challengers are expected to step up.
Some began speculating that the current U.S. Representative for Arizona’s 7th District Ruben Gallego is sizing up a run for the Sinema’s seat.
“Back in NYC to wake up to @SenatorSinema announcement she is no longer a democrat,” wrote Luis A. Miranda, Jr., who is a political strategist and father of Lin-Manuel Miranda, on Twitter. “She hasn’t been one ever! Now we could stop pretending, and organized behind @RubenGallego to elect him to the Senate.”
Still, there are those who see a bit of cynicism in Sinema’s announcement and speculate that she made the maneuver to preserve herself from being ousted during a primary challenge.
In Sinema’s own words, “I have joined the growing numbers of Arizonans who reject party politics by declaring my independence from the broken partisan system in Washington. I registered as an Arizona independent,” according to an op-ed she published in The Arizona Central.
However, political observers pointed to self-preservation as a motivating factor.
Calling Sinema’s party switch a “calculated risk,” political reporter for the New Republic Grace Segers took to Twiter to write that Sinema is not popular among Arizona Democrats and neither with GOP voters. With Arizona about a third independent, Segers said, Sinema is taking a risk should she decide to run again.
Sinema has garnered criticism from Democrats after holding out on climate and tax deals in the Senate, and for her refusal to abandon the filibuster which frustrated her former party’s attempts of enacting voting rights protections. Arizona Democrats symbolically censured her after the filibuster vote.
Rep. Ruben Gallego (D. AZ-07) hasn’t officially announced his candidacy yet but he’s certainly making moves. Here’s his response to today’s news:
I will enthusiastically support Gallego’s campaign when he announces his run. In fact, I am going to donate to his efforts now. Click here if you want to donate to Gallego’s potential campaign.