Liberal activists got exactly what they wanted after Senator Kyrsten Sinema’s recent announcement that she was quitting the Democratic Party to fly her independent flag.
The 46-year-old dropped the bomb about a year after militants chased her into a bathroom stall and a bird stalked her at a wedding she officiated – prompting the mother of the bride to implore the small but vocal group of protesters not to spoil the ceremony.
Ms Sinema has made it clear that she is tired of this kind of tribalism.
“Registering as a freelancer and showing up to work as a freelancer is a reflection of who I’ve always been, and it’s a reflection of who Arizona is,” she said. said in a video. “We don’t line up to do what we’re told, we do what’s right for our state and for our country.”
Ms Sinema, who has not indicated whether she will stand for re-election, said she was keeping her promise to be an “independent voice for our state”.
For President Biden and Senate Democrats, it’s an unexpected curve.
They face a tough senatorial map in 2024. The party will now have to decide whether to stay with Ms Sinema or rally behind the winner of the Democratic primary race.
Ms Sinema appeared to be taking a crash course with Representative Ruben Gallego. The liberal Democrat teased the idea of challenging her. Mr. Gallego called the incumbent a betrayal and accused her of wanting Democrats to lose the House and Senate in the 2022 midterm elections.
Mr. Gallego, who recently flew on Air Force One with Mr. Biden, said Ms. Sinema was “giving up” on the party.
“Arizona deserves a voice that won’t back down in the face of struggle,” he said. “Unfortunately, Senator Sinema is once again putting her own interests ahead of getting things done for Arizonans.”
Barrett Marson, an Arizona GOP strategist, said Sinema’s news was both “shattering” and “completely unsurprising at the same time.”
“She was going to have an impossible primary with Ruben Gallego running against her from the left,” Mr Marson said. “Sinema has been persona non grata in the Democratic Party for the better part of a year and that just reflects the reality – both that she’s no longer a Democrat and that Democrats don’t like her.”
“Democrat activists hated Sinema from afar,” Mr Marson said. “I think they would rather lose the seat to a Republican than have Sinema.”
For Republicans, the announcement shifts focus to Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey’s plans for 2024.
The popular Republican could not seek reelection due to term limits and would be difficult for Democrats in a general election with or without Ms Sinema in the race.
Republicans have been pressuring Mr Ducey to run this year against Senator Mark Kelly. Mr Ducey died after being criticized by former President Donald Trump for refusing to accept his stolen campaign demands.
Mr Kelly won a nearly 5-point victory over Blake Masters, the Trump-backed Republican who embraced the rigged election claims.
Ms Sinema positioned herself as a leading centrist after taking office in 2019. The role enraged liberals, particularly her reluctance to blast the chamber’s filibuster rules to allow Democrats to impose their program. His support for maintaining the filibuster led to censures and calls for a primary.
Frustration boiled over last year when activists from Living United for Change in Arizona chased her into a bathroom at Arizona State University, where she teaches, and demanded she follow the pressure of Mr. Biden for a massive $3.5 billion outlay. invoice.
She didn’t, which forced Democrats to drastically narrow their vision.
Later that month, left-wing protesters invaded a wedding she was officiating.
They chanted “shame Sinema” and “vote the rout” while touting signs that read “REPRESENTATION NOT PROSTITUTION”, “Sinema betrays Democrats” and “Kry $sten $inema i $a Corporate $chill”.
“I don’t think those are appropriate tactics, but it happens to everyone,” Biden said at the time, noting it was “part of the process.”
While Ms. Sinema’s approach infuriated Democrats, it hardened her image in Arizona as an independent actor cut from the same cloth as the fiery senses. Barry Goldwater and John McCain.
“She is the first senator in Arizona history not to fly the Democratic or Republican Party banner,” said Mike Noble, an Arizona-based pollster. “This is a historic and bold move by Sinema.”
“Sinema’s policy move makes sense because his polling among Democrats hasn’t been great since some of his contentious votes and is vulnerable to a Democratic primary challenge,” Noble said. “As an independent, she gives up that political risk in a party primary and just needs to worry about the general election.”
Democrats will retain enough votes to control the Senate and its committees, but Ms. Sinema’s decision alters the power dynamic within the party and fell with a major thump on Friday, prompting a response from the White House.
“We understand that her decision to register as an independent in Arizona does not change the new Democratic majority control of the Senate, and we have every reason to expect that we will continue to work successfully with her,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said, underscoring Ms. Sinema’s support for key elements of Mr. Biden’s agenda.