Kyrsten Sinema quits Senate race, leaving Arizona seat up for grabs

Independent Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona has announced that she will not seek reelection in 2024, ending her controversial and polarizing political career. Sinema, who was once a Democrat but left the party in 2022, said she was proud of her achievements but felt she did not belong in the two-party system.

Sinema cites civility and bipartisanship as reasons for leaving

In a video posted on social media, Sinema said she loved Arizona and was proud of what she had delivered for the state, such as securing water rights, expanding health care access, and supporting veterans. She also said she had worked hard to find common ground with Republicans and Democrats on issues such as border security, infrastructure, and foreign aid.

“Because I choose civility, understanding, listening, working together to get stuff done, I will leave the Senate at the end of this year,” Sinema said.

Sinema’s decision comes after Senate Republicans blocked a bipartisan bill that she had spent months negotiating, which would have provided funding for border security, military aid to Ukraine and Israel, and disaster relief. Sinema had hoped that the bill would be a signature achievement and a testament to her belief that cross-party dealmaking was still possible in Washington.

Kyrsten Sinema quits Senate race

However, the bill failed to overcome a filibuster, a procedural tactic that requires 60 votes to advance legislation. Sinema was one of two Democrats who refused to support changing the Senate rules to eliminate or weaken the filibuster, arguing that it would erode the institution and lead to more polarization.

Sinema faced backlash from Democrats and challenges from both parties

Sinema’s stance on the filibuster and other issues, such as voting rights, climate change, and health care, had alienated many of her former Democratic colleagues and supporters, who accused her of being a traitor, a sellout, and a corporate shill. Sinema had also angered some progressive activists with her flamboyant gestures, such as giving a thumbs-down to a minimum wage increase and wearing a ring that said “F— Off”.

Sinema had faced a primary challenge from Democratic Congressman Ruben Gallego, a progressive and a veteran who had criticized her for blocking President Joe Biden’s agenda. Gallego had outraised Sinema in the last quarter of 2023 and had gained the endorsement of several prominent Democrats, such as Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

Sinema had also faced a tough general election battle, as Arizona had become a swing state in recent years. Sinema had narrowly defeated Republican Martha McSally in 2018, becoming the first Democrat to win a Senate seat in Arizona since 1988. However, McSally had been appointed to the other Senate seat after the death of John McCain, and had lost to Democrat Mark Kelly, a former astronaut and the husband of former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, in 2020.

The leading Republican candidate for Sinema’s seat was Kari Lake, a former TV anchor and a staunch supporter of former President Donald Trump. Lake had embraced Trump’s false claims of election fraud and had vowed to fight against Biden’s policies on immigration, health care, and gun control. Lake had also raised more money than Sinema in the last quarter of 2023 and had the backing of several influential Republicans, such as Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul.

Sinema’s exit leaves Arizona seat up for grabs and Senate majority in doubt

Sinema’s exit leaves the Arizona Senate race wide open, as both parties will have to choose their nominees in the primaries. The race is expected to be one of the most competitive and expensive in the country, as both parties will vie for control of the Senate, which is currently split 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking ties.

Arizona is also a key battleground state in the presidential election, as Biden had won the state by less than 11,000 votes in 2020, becoming the first Democrat to do so since Bill Clinton in 1996. Trump and his allies had contested the results and had pressured state officials to overturn the outcome, but multiple audits and lawsuits had confirmed Biden’s victory.

The Arizona Senate race will also have implications for the national political landscape, as it will test the strength of Trump’s influence, the appeal of Biden’s agenda, and the viability of bipartisanship and moderation in a polarized era.

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