Kyrsten Sinema’s Split from Democrats Shows Party Discord in Arizona

In 2018, Kyrsten Sinema won the Democrats a seat in the U.S. Senate in Arizona for the first time in a generation. The win came amid division among Republicans, thanks to unity in her own party.

The party unity was in place through the next two election cycles as the party won Arizona’s top three state offices and another Senate seat.

Sinema registered as an independent shortly following the 2022 midterm elections. However, the winning formula is in flux ahead of the 2024 election due to Sinema’s abandonment of the Democratic Party. The move could complicate the party’s hopes for maintaining control of the Senate and Joe Biden’s path to reelection.

Democrats have also voiced fears that a three-way race would see Sinema receiving votes from both independents and Democrats and could hand the seat to a Republican.

“If there were ever a time for her to listen to her constituents for once, it’d be now,” said executive director of the Latino organizing group Living United for Change in Arizona, Alex Gomez, which has bumped heads with Sinema for years. “She needs to step aside. The potential candidacy of a Kari Lake presents a clear and present danger to our democracy.”

Sinema has not confirmed if she will seek reelection. However, the race has already begun, with U.S. Representative Ruben Gallego, kicking off his campaign last month.

Senate race only one sign of Democratic division

The Arizona Senate race is not the only sign of Democratic division in the state. Last month, the Arizona Democratic Party had its first contested election for the chair position in 12 years, which pitted a candidate supported by Governor Katie Hobbs against one backed by most of the state’s other elected Democrats.

Next year, the Democrats will hold a narrow 51-49 majority in the Senate and are defending seats in 23 states.

Sinema’s relationship with the party imploded during Joe Biden’s presidency when she joined forces with fellow moderate Democrat Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia and put up roadblocks for some of the president’s progressive priorities and agenda.

Sinema is one of the Senate’s most outspoken defenders of the filibuster rule. The rule requires 60 of 100 votes to pass most legislation, which Democrats claim empowers Republicans to overrule the will of the Democrat majority.

Sinema says she is focused on creating bipartisan deals that will last longer than any party’s control of Congress.