Immigrant rights groups swarmed at a press conference held by Sinema after the bill was passed, chanting ‘no más’ – nothing more – until Capitol Hill police arrested four people . But they had made their point: Sinema abruptly ended the press conference and left.
Soon after, Sinema enraged many in his party for refusing to support the recall of Pearce, the then Senate speaker who drafted Arizona’s tough immigration law. Sinema was elected to the state Senate in 2010 and she told a group of activists organizing the historic recall effort that she couldn’t help because Pearce was her “boss.”
She also appeared on a local news show and said Pearce, among the left’s most hated politicians, was a good friend who should run for Congress as well. His spokesperson later said it was a tongue-in-cheek remark meant to make it clear that she wanted him to leave the state legislature. But for many Latino activists, getting closer to the man who demonized their communities to push through a few modest bills in the Senate was a bridge too far.
Today, Lopes is part of a group raising funds for a potential Democratic challenger to Sinema in 2024, furious that she serves as a blockade on the Biden agenda.
“This is our chance to do something really, really meaningful,” he says. “And she maintains it. What is that kind of bullshit?
Sometimes Sinema was successful by co-opting his Conservative friends to support a Liberal program.
In 2006, when Sinema was still a true progressive, she asked Jonathan Paton, a Republican lawmaker from Tucson, to take the lead on her bill ensuring that breastfeeding women in public cannot be accused of exposure. indecent.
“She was very factual about it, ‘Look, if I sponsor it, it’s not going to pass. I’ll do all the work, I just need a Republican to sponsor him for me because that’s how the world works, ”he recalls. “And I was like, ‘Okay, you know, whatever,’ and I didn’t really pay that much attention, to be honest with you, until the day of the hearing.”
He was shocked when hundreds of women showed up for the hearing – a mix of what he calls granola hippies and Mormon moms. The bill was passed by the committee with their support, but Paton warned Sinema that he still faces opposition within the conservative ranks of the Republican Party, especially Pearce.
“And she looks at me and she says, ‘I’ll take care of Russell,'” he said.
Sinema launched a campaign for moms and Mormon church superiors to email Pearce, who is Mormon, to support the bill, and Pearce bowed, Paton says.
“I was impressed,” says Paton. “She was smarter than most people in both parties.”
The two continued to work together on a host of other issues, including the drop house bill which then put Sinema in trouble with members of his own party. But Paton still thinks of that first draft – the breastfeeding bill he didn’t really want to sponsor – as the moment he realized what Sinema could turn into a powerhouse.
The whole Washington, DC intrigue of why Sinema is delaying Democrats’ legislation is based on a misinterpretation of the state’s political stance, Paton adds. It is an independent center-right state that can support a conservative-leaning Democrat.
“Let’s just say she knows this state at least as well as she knew Russell Pearce,” he says.
Even among his detractors, Sinema is widely regarded as one of the most savvy politicians in Arizona history. She has the intelligence of a lawyer, the emotional intelligence of a social worker, and the determination of a triathlete, because she is it all.
No one comes to the US Senate without a healthy dose of ambition and pride. But her detractors also say in this regard that she is off the charts: that she has only ever cared about herself, that she thirsts to be in the limelight, that she gave up all the principles that were once dear to him in exchange for power.
“Kyrsten is one of the brightest people I have ever known, if not the brightest,” says a former Democratic lawmaker who was once close to her in the legislature and who was granted anonymity to put it bluntly. This is what makes her conduct in Washington so disappointing: “I don’t think her motivation to vote that she is doing today has anything to do with what her true beliefs are.
Instead, the former colleague says her decisions are based on cold, hard political calculations – and a need to feed her thirst for attention, more than power even.
“If she lost the Senate race and got a TV show on Fox or whatever, I think she would be just as happy,” the former lawmaker said. “What she wants is Cecily Strong to play her on SNL. Anyone who thinks she’s been insulted by it doesn’t know her.
Other long-standing allies and Sinema’s supporters are bewildered.
Back in the days when Sinema unsuccessfully ran for the legislature as an independent, Sandy Bahr, executive director of the Sierra Club Grand Canyon Chapter, was her greatest champion. She helped campaign for Sinema and was present on election night to share in the devastating loss.
When Sinema ran for Democrat two years later and won, she quickly became one of the Sierra Club’s most trusted votes on Capitol Hill. For years in Congress, Sinema and Bahr were always close. But these days, Bahr can hardly get a meeting with her, getting a single 5-minute session since Sinema became a senator three years ago.
And why, Bahr wonders, Sinema would push to cut $ 100 billion in funds to fight climate change – a position at odds with the views of his own voters based on polls. Sinema is generally a genius in mathematics when it comes to politics, Bahr says, but in this case his calculations seem to be wrong. A spokesperson for Sinema denied the report to the New York Times.
“I’m really disappointed and perplexed,” she said, adding that she thinks Sinema still cares deeply about environmental issues. “But where she is focusing seems to have changed.”
Of course, Sinema isn’t the only Democrat standing in the way of adopting Biden’s platform. But politicians and pundits find it much easier to explain the reservations of Manchin, a longtime moderate whose Trump won the state by nearly 40 percentage points last year.
Manchin came under pressure from the left – protesters kayaked to his barge – but he had no problem arguing about it, even on the water.
Sinema, meanwhile, has not been spotted around her former haunts since she was pictured in April displaying a ring that read “Fuck Off.” She rarely answers questions from the press or her constituents, whether they are trying to button her up on planes or in the bathroom. She does not attack the press like Manchin.
For Lujan and other former allies, his silence is the most disconcerting part of his transformation.
As a state legislator, Sinema sometimes spoke at three public events a day and was among the most-cited and most-cited lawmakers, he says. But now she is “almost a recluse”.
Former Arizona Democratic lawmaker Debbie McCune Davis, a strong progressive who was somewhat of a mentor to Sinema during her early years on Capitol Hill, says she saw a change once Sinema took over. the Democratic leadership. Suddenly Sinema was keeping the door open to the payday lending industry and others who were in direct opposition to the Democrats’ agenda.
“I watched evolution take place. And what I saw was a pragmatic side of her that frustrated me a bit, because they weren’t people doing something good for our community, ”she says.