Kyrsten Sinema
U.S. Senator Kyrsten Sinema speaking with the media after a town hall hosted by the U.S. Hispanic Business Council at the ASU Thunderbird School of Management in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo: Gage Skidmore, reproduced under a Creative Commons license)

In less than a year, Kyrsten Sine­ma will be out of the Unit­ed States Senate.

The Green-turned-Demo­c­rat-turned-Inde­pen­dent announced today that she won’t be seek­ing a sec­ond term rep­re­sent­ing Ari­zona this year, con­firm­ing wide­spread spec­u­la­tion that she was­n’t going to be run­ning again and is eager to cash out with a nice lob­by­ing gig after more than a decade in Congress.

In a video reveal­ing her deci­sion, Sine­ma tried to chalk up her deci­sion as dri­ven by polar­iza­tion and par­ti­san­ship. In real­i­ty, it was nec­es­sary because Sine­ma made her­self polit­i­cal­ly home­less. She long ago ceased to pre­tend to be inter­est­ed in rep­re­sent­ing her con­stituents, shun­ning the pub­lic and the press in favor of a tight focus on behind-the-scenes deal­mak­ing on a host of issues.

Despite her record of mak­ing peo­ple angry by betray­ing their trust and enabling Repub­li­cans to stoke the fires of divi­sion across the coun­try, Sine­ma had the gall to blame her fel­low Amer­i­cans for choos­ing “anger and division.”

“Amer­i­cans still choose to retreat fur­ther to their par­ti­san cor­ners,” said Sine­ma. “It’s all or noth­ing. The out­come is less impor­tant than beat­ing the oth­er guy. “The only polit­i­cal vic­to­ries that mat­ter these days are sym­bol­ic… Com­pro­mise is a dirty word. We’ve arrived at that cross­road and we chose anger and division.”

“I believe in my approach, but it’s not what Amer­i­ca wants right now.”

With Sine­ma out, Ari­zon­a’s 2024 U.S. Sen­ate race is for an open seat.

Democ­rats have a strong can­di­date in Ruben Gal­lego, who has been out-rais­ing Sine­ma and has the sup­port of the par­ty’s grass­roots, includ­ing a long list of activists and local elect­ed lead­ers that Sine­ma will­ful­ly alienated.

Gal­lego has been expect­ing Sine­ma’s deci­sion. He issued a state­ment thank­ing Sine­ma for her ser­vice, hav­ing already gone on the record long ago about why he believes she needs to be replaced in the Unit­ed States Senate.

“I want to thank Sen­a­tor Sine­ma for her near­ly two decades of ser­vice to our state,” said Gal­lego. “As we look ahead, Ari­zona is at a cross­roads. Pro­tect­ing abor­tion access, tack­ling hous­ing afford­abil­i­ty, secur­ing our water sup­ply, defend­ing our democ­ra­cy — all of this and more is on the line. That’s why Democ­rats, Inde­pen­dents, and Repub­li­cans alike are com­ing togeth­er and reject­ing Kari Lake and her dan­ger­ous posi­tions. I wel­come all Ari­zo­nans, includ­ing Sen­a­tor Sine­ma, to join me in that mission.”

Lake and Mark Lamb, the two Repub­li­cans also vying to suc­ceed Sine­ma, quick­ly chimed in as well. Like Gal­lego, they sound­ed very unsurprised.

“As a Jour­nal­ist, I cov­ered Kyrsten Sine­ma for many years,” Lake said. “We may not agree on every­thing, but I know she shares my love for Arizona.”

Mean­while, Lam­b’s camp said: “Kyrsten Sine­ma’s strength has always been in attract­ing the large num­ber of inde­pen­dent vot­ers in Ari­zona. We expect most of those inde­pen­dent vot­ers to vote for Sher­iff Mark Lamb in a gen­er­al election.”

Pub­lic opin­ion research sug­gests it’s Gal­lego who has the advan­tage, how­ev­er. Recent sur­veys con­duct­ed by Noble Pre­dic­tive Insights and Emer­son have found Gal­lego ahead in a three-way matchup with Lake and Sine­ma. Sine­ma knew that even if she ran, her per­son­al brand would­n’t nec­es­sar­i­ly car­ry her. Nor did she seem enthused about actu­al­ly get­ting out and campaigning.

As a Sen­a­tor, Sine­ma has been insu­lar and inac­ces­si­ble to the peo­ple, pre­fer­ring to spend time with pow­er­ful lob­by­ists and a small cir­cle of friends instead.

Local elect­ed offi­cials in Ari­zona have com­plained about not being able to get a hold of her. She has not held a sin­gle town hall event since becom­ing a Unit­ed States Sen­a­tor, leav­ing activists and con­stituents extreme­ly frustrated.

Many signed on to an effort com­mit­ted to boot­ing Sine­ma from the Sen­ate — orig­i­nal­ly known as Pri­ma­ry Sine­ma and lat­er the Replace Sine­ma Project.

“We start­ed this effort to Replace Sine­ma over two years ago to hold Sine­ma account­able for betray­ing the Ari­zo­nans who elect­ed her,” the group said.

“Sine­ma obstruct­ed Pres­i­dent Biden’s Build Back Bet­ter agen­da, got in the way of fun­da­men­tal rights like abor­tion care and vot­ing, and did the bid­ding of her wealthy donors who fund her lux­u­ry lifestyle. We suc­ceed­ed in first push­ing her out of the par­ty — by mak­ing clear she couldn’t win a Demo­c­ra­t­ic pri­ma­ry — and now we’ve also helped push her out of the Sen­ate. Good. Ari­zo­nans deserve better.”

Sine­ma’s ally in the Unit­ed States Sen­ate, mav­er­ick Sen­a­tor Joe Manchin of West Vir­ginia, has also decid­ed against seek­ing reelec­tion in 2024. He con­tem­plat­ed run­ning for Pres­i­dent but has decid­ed against that as well. With Sine­ma and Manchin gone, the Demo­c­ra­t­ic cau­cus will no longer have a pro-fil­i­buster fac­tion any­more. Whether Democ­rats can hold onto the major­i­ty in the Sen­ate is anoth­er mat­ter. The par­ty has twen­ty-three seats to defend and few pick­up oppor­tu­ni­ties, while Repub­li­cans are only defend­ing eleven seats in states that Trump won.

If the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty is able to run the table and the Biden-Har­ris tick­et gets a sec­ond term, Democ­rats would come into 2025 with anoth­er nar­row major­i­ty — but one with­out the pres­ence of the rene­gade duo of Sine­ma and Manchin. That would open the door to long-over­due reforms of Sen­ate rules need­ed to unlock progress on issues where Repub­li­cans have unapolo­get­i­cal­ly used the fil­i­buster to bury leg­is­la­tion that would make Amer­i­cans freer, hap­pi­er, and healthier.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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