The departure of independent Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema from the Democratic Party on Friday raises questions about the future of her middle Senate seat in the body’s already thin margin between Democrats and Republicans.
The former Democrat was first elected in 2018, winning a close race against then-Republican Congresswoman Martha McSally, and is up for re-election in 2024 in what should be Republicans’ primary focus.
Whether or not Sinema chooses to continue caucusing with her fellow Democrats in the Senate, Arizona law will not allow her to run as a candidate for a particular political party if she is an independent. Therefore, she would likely be forced to run in the 2024 general election against a future Democratic and Republican candidate if she sought re-election to win a second term.
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A progressive group already appeared to be looking to 2024 after Sinema announced she was no longer a Democrat. “Kyrsten Sinema has no constituency in Arizona among Democratic, Republican or Independent voters. Her constituency is Wall Street – and she has hurt Arizonans by taking away universal child care, voting rights and taxing billionaires,” said Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the said Progressive Campaign Change Committee, referring to Sinema’s bias with Republicans on some Democratic-backed legislation.
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“She should join her friends on Wall Street in 2024, and the Democrats should nominate someone truly on the working class side who can unite and win Arizona,” she added.
Prior to Sinema’s announcement, Democrats were expected to take control of the Senate in January with a narrow majority of 51 to 49 seats after overwhelmingly outplaying Republicans in close cross-country midterm races.
But Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was confident that Sinema’s decision would not affect the balance of power. In a statement after Sinema’s announcement, Schumer said the Arizona senator asked to keep her committee assignments, which he accepted.
“We will maintain our new committee majority, exercise our subpoena power and be able to weed out nominees without a discharge vote,” Schumer said.
Sinema will become the Senate’s third independent senator, joining Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, who both have caucuses with Democrats.
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However, she declined to say if she would do the same.