Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema leaves the Democratic Party

Three senators now profess to be politically independent
Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema leaves the Democratic Party
Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema leaves the Democratic Party(DC Bureau)
Published: Dec. 9, 2022 at 4:10 PM CST
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Senator Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) has left the Democratic Party. She announced this morning that she will now be an independent who still caucuses with Democrats in the Senate. This comes as the senator continues facing pressure from the left to be more progressive.

Sinema joins Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Angus King (I-Maine) in a trio of independents who caucus with Senate Democrats.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer confirmed in a Friday statement that Sinema told him she is an independent. She also asked him to keep her committee assignments. Schumer said that he agreed, and that Democrats will keep the committee-level subpoena power gained with Senator Raphael Warnock’s (D-Ga.) re-election this week.

George Washington University political science professor Dr. Casey Burgat said, “internally organizationally it won’t change a whole lot but just party labeling is a little different.”

Burgat said that Sinema’s move may be more about insulating from a potential primary challenge. He said she’s sending the signal that if a challenge comes it could split Democratic votes, which could make it easier for Republicans to flip the seat in 2024.

Burgat said, “That’s kind of her calculus right now to to plant her flag in the middle. And we’ll see if anyone wants to call her bluff out of challenging on the Democratic primary.”

More than a year ago, a group of progressive Democrats in Arizona launched the Primary Sinema Project. Luis Avila from the political action committee said, I’m not going to be naive, this makes things a lot harder for us.”

Avila said he still believes Democrats should challenge Sinema, and is hoping that candidates announce quickly. He said, “now the goal is to ensure that the Democrats are aligned and unified behind a candidate.”

Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) has done little to temper speculation he’d eventually attempt a primary challenge of Sinema.

Friday he said in a statement, “Arizona deserves a voice that won’t back down in the face of struggle. Unfortunately, Senator Sinema is once again putting her own interests ahead of getting things done for Arizonans.”

Gallego has not formally announced intentions of running for U.S. Senate.