On Friday, December 9, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona has made a bombshell announcement: She is leaving the Democratic Party and will be registered as an independent going forward. This announcement comes only a few days after Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia was reelected in a runoff and Democrats were celebrating the 51-seat majority they expected to have; Sinema was part of that 51, but she will no longer be a Democrat.
In an interview with Politico, however, Sinema said that she won’t be caucusing with Senate Republicans. The centrist senator wouldn’t say whether or not she will seek reelection in 2024.
Sinema told Politico, “Nothing will change about my values or my behavior…. I don’t anticipate that anything will change about the Senate structure…. I intend to show up to work, do the same work that I always do. I just intend to show up to work as an independent.”
Politico’s Burgess Everett observes, “Even before her party switch, she faced rumblings of a primary challenge in 2024 from Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.). Becoming an independent will avoid a head-to-head primary against Gallego or another progressive, should she seek reelection. A theoretical general-election campaign could be chaotic if both Democrats and Republicans field candidates against her.”
Sinema’s decision is receiving plenty of reactions on social media. Kyle Kondik of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, in a December 9 post on Twitter, speculated that leaving the Democratic Party was her way of avoiding a primary challenge from Gallego.
Kondik tweeted, “My initial gut reaction to this is that she figured she would lose the primary so is trying this path to reelection instead.”
Twitter user Brett Bobysud, @BBobysud588, posted, “Basically daring Gallego to run because she knows they’d likely split the D vote in the general election and give the seat to Rs. After Kelly won this past year in this environment, she probably figured this was her only option to keep her seat.”
Health writer Gina Shaw tweeted that Sinema is “holding the seat hostage.”
NBC News’ Sahil Kapur, @sahilkapur, posted, “This completes a remarkable transformation for Kyrsten Sinema, from Green Party activist to Democrat to centrist independent.”
Twitter user @PurveyorOCreepy, in response to Kapur’s tweet, posted, “This completes a remarkable transformation for Kyrsten Sinema, from collecting dark money to collecting dark money to collecting dark money.”
Mary Buggie-Hunt, @MaryBuggieHunt, was critical of Sinema as well, describing her as “a show-boating, attention-seeker who wants desperately to remain relevant AND in the news.”
Twitter user Akaash Kolluri, @akaashkolluri, commented, “I wonder how well it will work. It’s one thing for someone like King or Sanders to remain independent after a career of that, but this is so clearly a career-saving exercise that I wonder how many people it convinces. It’s not like Sinema has Lieberman or Murkowski’s tenure either.”
Cassandra Noel, @CNDCapeCod, said of Sinema, “She was never a democrat to begin with. Can’t think of any democratic policies she even supports. A shame, considering her constituents thought they were voting for a democrat and she feels zero loyalty to them.”
Semafor’s Dave Weigel tweeted, “I woke up on the west coast so was initially confused by some bad analysis that pretended this risked the balance of power. It doesn’t – it’s a gordian knot-cutting political tactic that nullifies the biggest threat to Sinema’s reelection, a primary against Phoenix’s congressman.”
Weigel also posted, “We don’t know how Dems play this yet. In states where popular (more so than Sinema) independents run and caucus with Dems, the DSCC stands down – Maine, Vermont. They don’t have to run a D and won’t want to if it looks like they’d only be a spoiler.”
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