Independent Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona says she will not seek re-election

(J Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

Independent Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona says she will not seek re-election

Election 2024


March 5, 2024

Independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona announced Tuesday that she will not run for a second term after her estrangement from the Democratic Party left her politically homeless and without a clear path to re-election.

Sinema’s announcement comes after Senate Republicans blocked a bipartisan bill to help secure the U.S.-Mexico border and provide military aid to Ukraine and Israel, which Sinema spent months negotiating. Shed hopes this will be a signature achievement that tackles one of Washington’s most persistent challenges, as well as providing strong support for its increasingly lonely view that cross-party deal-making remains possible.

But ultimately, Sinema’s border security ambitions and her career in Congress were consumed by the partisanship that has paralyzed Congress.

“I love Arizona and I am so proud of what we have delivered,” she said in a video on social media. Because I choose civility, understanding, listening, working together to get things done, I will leave the Senate at the end of this year.

Sinema’s decision avoids a three-way battle in one of the most closely watched Senate races of 2024, a difficult-to-predict scenario that has sparked intense debate among political operatives over whether one major party would benefit from the quest for the Senate majority. Most analysts agreed that Sinema would have faced significant, likely insurmountable obstacles if she decided to run.

Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona is switching from Democrat to independent

Sinema, the first openly bisexual person elected to the Senate, had been raising money for a possible re-election campaign and had significantly stepped up her public appearances in Arizona in 2023, though her activities slowed as her announcement neared. During her five years as president, she built a formidable campaign bank account, which stood at $10.6 million as of December. August 31, 2023, but her quarterly fundraising was surpassed by Democrat Ruben Gallego and Republican Kari Lake.

Sinema was a Democrat for most of her political career, but left the party late last year, saying she did not fit into the two-party system. She had alienated many of her colleagues and her party base by blocking progressive priorities and often siding with business interests. In an era


tribalistic party loyalty, she did her utmost to build relationships with the Republicans.

When Sinema became an independent in late 2022, Democrats feared she would split the vote to the left of center and let a Republican win.

The Republicans have an advantage in the battle for control of the Senate. Democrats will be forced to defend 23 seats, including Sinemas and two others held by independents who typically vote with Democrats, compared to just 10 seats for Republicans.

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Sinema tried to build her Senate career on the example of John McCain, the legendary Arizona Republican whose willingness to take on the GOP enraged his party’s base but ultimately challenged him among the state’s more moderate voters .

But she ultimately came closer to the path of Jeff Flake, a former Republican senator from Arizona who opposed the then-president.


Trump and became a pariah in his party. Like Sinema, Flake declined to run for a second term after it became clear he could not survive a primary.

Flake later crossed the aisle to support Democrat Joe Biden against Trump in 2020 and was rewarded with an appointment as ambassador to Turkey.

Sinema did not say what the future holds for her. But in her video message announcing her departure, she blamed the current political climate and said Americans are still choosing to retreat further to their partisan corners.

It’s all or nothing, she said. The only political victories that matter these days are symbolic: attacking your opponents on cable news or social media.

Her 2018 election marked the first time in a generation that a Democrat had won a Senate seat from Arizona. It was the beginning of a period of rise for


Democrats in a state long dominated by the Republican Party.

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In Congress, she was at the center of many of the biggest congressional deals during Biden’s presidency, from a bipartisan infrastructure package to a landmark bill to legally protect same-sex marriage.

She has also been a reliable vote for Democrats on most nominations and legislation. But hamstrung by razor-thin majorities, the party has refused to give its blessing to some of the progressive movements’ top priorities.

Her support for maintaining the Senate’s filibuster rule, which requires 60 out of 100 votes to pass most legislation rather than a simple majority, has been a particular source of frustration for progressives, who say that despite the Democratic majority vetoes it. Sinema says it forces the bipartisan compromise most voters crave.

She single-handedly thwarted her party’s long-standing goal of raising taxes on wealthy investors. The year ago, she received nearly $1 million from private equity professionals, hedge fund managers and venture capitalists whose taxes would have increased under the plan.

Sometimes she seemed to enjoy serving as a roadblock.

She voted while voting against the minimum wage increase. A few weeks later, when the reaction to that sentiment was still fresh, she posted on Instagram a photo of herself at brunch, wearing a ring that said “f-off.”

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Progressives turned up the pressure. Activists followed her into a bathroom looking for answers to their questions. Critics disrupted a wedding where she was a guest. And the Rev. Jesse Jackson was among the demonstrators arrested during a protest outside her office in Phoenix.

Long before she was re-elected, donors threatened to walk out, and several groups began raising money to support an eventual challenger.

In 2022, before she became independent, Arizona Democratic Party leaders formally condemned Sinema, a symbolic move that had no practical impact but was emblematic of the rupture of her relationship with the party.

Sinema’s political career began as an incendiary anti-war activist. She described herself as a Prada socialist and unsuccessfully ran for local office as a member of the Green Party. She was later elected to the Arizona Legislature as a Democrat and became a prolific spokesperson against Republican bills. Witty, feisty and approachable, she was on the speed dial for journalists covering the legislature.

But she came to believe she could build bridges with the Republican majority more effectively than publicly castigate them, she wrote in her 2009 book Unite and Conquer. It was the beginning of her move toward the center and the personality that has made her national brand formed.


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