Independent Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s departure from the Democratic Party on Friday raises questions concerning the future of her pivotal Senate seat in the body’s already slim margin between Democrats and Republicans.
The former Democrat was first elected in 2018, winning a tight race against then-Republican Congresswoman Martha McSally, and is up for re-election in 2024 in what is expected to be a primary target for Republicans to flip.
Regardless of whether Sinema chooses to continue to caucus with her Democratic colleagues in the Senate, Arizona law will not allow her to run as a candidate of a particular political party if she is an independent. Therefore, she would likely be forced to run in a 2024 general election against a future Democratic and Republican nominee if she seeks re-election to win a second term.
One progressive group already appeared to be looking ahead to 2024 following Sinema’s announcement that 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 hurt Arizonans by tanking universal child care, voting rights, and taxing billionaires,” Stephanie Taylor, the co-founder of the Progressive Campaign Change Committee said, referring to Sinema’s siding with Republicans on certain Democrat-backed legislation.
“She should join her friends on Wall Street in 2024, and Democrats should nominate someone truly on the side of the working class 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 slim 51-49 seat majority after largely outperforming Republicans in tight races across the country during the midterms.
But Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was confident that Sinema’s move would not affect the balance of power. In a statement after Sinema’s announcement, Schumer said that the Arizona senator had asked to retain her committee assignments, to which he agreed.
“We will maintain our new majority on committees, exercise our subpoena power and be able to clear nominees without discharge votes,” 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 caucus with Democrats.
She has declined, however, to say whether she will do the same.