Kyrsten Sinema Bows Out of Arizona Senate Race

On Tuesday, Independent Senator Kyrsten Sinema declared that she won’t seek re-election this year, concluding her Senate term marked by turning Arizona blue, departing the Democratic Party, and playing a significant role in legislative negotiations in a closely divided Senate.

“I love Arizona, and I am proud of what we’ve achieved. Choosing civility, understanding, listening, and collaboration to accomplish tasks, I’ll leave the Senate at the end of this year,” expressed Sinema in a video shared on her X account.

Sinema’s decision sets the stage for a challenging and costly battle for her seat. However, it will be more straightforward compared to the complex three-way contest she would have triggered by staying in. Leading Republican contender Kari Lake, the 2022 gubernatorial candidate, and leading Democrat, Rep. Ruben Gallego, are already vigorously campaigning to replace Sinema.

Sinema’s Political Journey in Arizona

Sinema secured her seat in 2018 as a Democrat, narrowly defeating Republican Martha McSally by 2.4 percentage points. She made history as the first non-Republican to win an Arizona Senate seat since 1994 and became the first openly bisexual U.S. senator.

Acknowledged as a moderate and independent voice, Sinema often diverged from her party on crucial votes and collaborated across party lines with Republicans. Her notable contributions include aiding the passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill and contributing to a compromise on voting rights legislation, which ultimately faced a Republican filibuster.

Despite her accomplishments, Sinema faced criticism from progressives for opposing filibuster abolition, minimum wage hikes, and supporting President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda. Public confrontations and booing at events underscored the challenges she encountered, leading to her departure from the Democratic Party in December 2022, becoming an independent while continuing to caucus with Democrats.

The Impact on the Senate Race and Power Dynamics

Sinema’s decision to exit the Senate race aligns with polls indicating her limited chances of victory. Although polling is scarce, she consistently appeared in third place in hypothetical three-way contests featuring Gallego and Lake. The impact on candidate support remains unclear.

Sinema believed she had stronger support among Arizona Republicans than from her former party, emphasizing attracting Democrats, independents, and Republicans for victory. Republicans aim to regain Senate control, viewing Arizona as a potential pickup. With Democrats holding a slim majority, the GOP needs a net gain of two seats to secure the chamber or one seat with the vice presidency’s tie-breaking vote.

Gallego, a four-term congressman and Iraq War veteran, is the Democratic frontrunner, securing backing from progressive groups, unions, and various figures. Meanwhile, Lake, a former TV anchor and vocal conservative, is the favored Republican, endorsed by former President Trump, boasting appeal among the GOP base.

The race’s competitiveness and expense are anticipated, with both parties and external groups investing heavily. Cook Political Report rates the race as a toss-up, emphasizing its pivotal role in determining Sinema’s legacy, Senate power dynamics, and the future of Biden’s agenda.

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