Even though Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema left the Democratic Party and registered as an independent last December, she remains awkwardly aligned with the Senate Democratic Caucus. As frustrated as they may be with Sinema, top Democrats in Washington, conscious of the fact that the party maintains only a narrow 51-49 majority in the Senate, have been notably reluctant to criticize the filibuster-backing, Wall Street–friendly senator. That’s been the pattern since, after Sinema announced her split from the party, Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) declined to say whether he would support her or an actual Democrat for the Arizona seat.
“Senator Sinema is an excellent Congress member and Senate member, and she has done a lot of good things here,” Schumer said, after being asked in January how he’d react to a 2024 Sinema bid. “But it’s much too early to make a decision.”
Senator Gary Peters, the Michigan Democrat who heads the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and describes Sinema as a friend, adopted a similar line in March, saying, “It’s really early. I don’t know what she’s planning on doing.”
This dodging of the question might work to keep Sinema in the fold for now, but Democratic activists in Arizona reject the notion that it’s too early for Senate Democrats to clarify where they stand. The 2024 race is taking shape, they say, and mixed signals from Washington are effectively encouraging Sinema to seek reelection as a well-financed independent contender, split the vote with her Democratic challenger, and potentially tip the election to a right-wing Republican such as failed GOP gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake.
So over the weekend, the Arizona Democratic Party’s state committee sent its bluntest message yet about what’s at stake in 2024, and about how national Democrats should respond as the Senate contest takes shape.
The committee passed a resolution declaring that
Kyrsten Sinema has obstructed the Democratic agenda by refusing to reform the minority veto filibuster and blocking urgent and popular legislation including voting rights protections and democracy reform, codifying Roe v Wade, a $15 minimum wage, Medicare expansion, broad prescription drug price negotiation, a path to citizenship for Dreamers and immigrant families, LGBTQ+ equality, labor rights protections, sufficient climate action and clean energy funding, universal pre-K, paid family leave, universal background checks, an assault weapons ban, free community college, and more, all while ignoring and enabling the extremist MAGA Republican assault on our democracy, leading to her censure by the Arizona Democratic Party…
Sinema had already been censured by the Arizona party more than a year ago. But the new resolution goes a step further. Focusing on the prospect that the incumbent—who has yet to announce her 2024 intentions—could try to attract support from national Democratic donors and officials, the resolution argues:
WHEREAS Kyrsten Sinema has consistently put the interests of her corporate and billionaire class donors first while betraying the working class, low-income, immigrant, and vulnerable Democrats who voted most heavily in her favor and most urgently needed her support;
WHEREAS reputable polls consistently show that the vast majority of Arizona Democrats and Democrat-leaning Independents do not approve of Kyrsten Sinema and would prefer a Democrat who backs ending the filibuster over her;
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Arizona Democratic Party does hereby declare and affirm our commitment to support the winner of the 2024 Arizona Democratic primary for the United States Senate to replace Kyrsten Sinema;
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Arizona Democratic Party does hereby call upon Democrats nationwide at every level, from grassroots activists and small donors to national party leaders, members of Congress and the Biden administration, large donors, and campaign and political institutions to pledge to support the winner of the Arizona Democratic primary for the United States Senate in 2024…
The resolution is a clear signal that Arizona Democrats will aggressively oppose a Sinema candidacy and support the winner of the Democratic primary—quite possibly US Representative Ruben Gallego, a Congressional Progressive Caucus member who launched his candidacy in January—and that they believe national Democrats need to get with the program.
“By overwhelmingly passing this resolution, Arizona Democrats affirmed that we are here to move our state and nation forward in the name of democracy, working families, immigrants, our planet, our future,” explained Patti Serrano, a state committee member and cochair of the Arizona Democratic Party Progressive Council. “Sinema has proven to be antithetical to our cause and abandoned all of us who worked hard to elect her. She has proven to prioritize corporations and special interests. It’s past time for national Democrats to get off the fence and directly, meaningfully support Arizona Democrats in replacing unpopular Sinema with a Democrat who will fight for Arizona.”
The race in Arizona, a state where Democrats have won three Senate elections in recent years, as well as the governorship and other major state contests, is rapidly taking shape. There’s some polling that suggests Gallego is ahead in a prospective 2024 race featuring a Republican and Sinema. But the numbers are tight, and there’s no telling how a year of intense, and very probably bitter, campaigning will shake things up. Sinema’s potential to play a spoiler role remains real. While Gallego has outraised the incumbent since she switched her party affiliation—the latest quarterly report saw the Democrat take in $3.7 million to the independent’s $2.1 million—a Sinema run could get a 2024 boost from her many allies in the hedge-fund industry and from other special interests that she has catered to as a frequent outlier from the Democratic caucus.
Sinema’s making moves that suggest she’s running. But there’s still a sense in some quarters that she might yet be convinced to forgo the 2024 race—especially as embarrassing headlines in Arizona and nationally draw attention to her “wildly extravagant spending” on international travel, and report that the senator has “spent more than $100K in campaign cash on jets, limos, luxury hotels and wine.” That’s where Arizona Democrats say that the party’s D.C. leadership has to step up. Kai Newkirk, a Democratic precinct committee member from Tempe who has been an organizer of efforts to defeat Sinema, says that clearer signals from national Democrats—especially Schumer and Peters—could influence Sinema’s decision on whether to make the race. “They really need to make it clear now, early on, that they will absolutely back the Democratic nominee in 2024,” says Newkirk.
To that end, Grand Canyon State Democrats have removed all doubts about where they stand.
“Arizona Democrats have resoundingly rejected the politics of Senator Sinema and are united in our determination to replace her in 2024,” explained Lupe Conchas, a vice chair of the Arizona party. “She turned her back on Arizona and today we turned our back on her. She does not represent us. It’s time for us to put our time and effort behind a candidate that puts working-class people first—not Wall Street hedge fund managers.”