Sinema announces she won't run for reelection

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Sen. Kyrsten Sinema announced she will not run for reelection this year, setting up a race between Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego and Republican Kari Lake to succeed her.

The first-term senator, who left the Democratic Party to become an independent, said she believes in her deal-making approach to politics, “but it’s not what America wants right now.”

“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 in a video message posted to social media on Tuesday.

Sinema’s decision continues an exodus of consensus-building centrists that, for a couple short years, essentially ran the upper chamber. Sens. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) already announced they would be leaving after their current terms, and Sinema’s decision to join them will not only change the landscape of the Senate electoral map, but also the complexion of the chamber itself.

Still, most expected that Sinema would decide against running for reelection. She would have faced a difficult battle as an independent in a three-way race against Gallego and Lake. But perhaps more importantly, she saw months of work on a border security deal evaporate in a matter of days earlier this year.

It was a notable defeat after Sinema was a key cog in other bipartisan negotiating groups that clinched new laws on infrastructure, marriage equality, gun safety and semiconductor production — all within her first term in office. She lamented in her video message that those policy victories did not seem to resonate politically.

“Despite modernizing our infrastructure, ensuring clean water, delivering good jobs and safer communities, Americans still choose to retreat farther to their partisan corners. These solutions are considered failures either because they are too much, or not nearly enough,” Sinema said. “We’ve arrived at that crossroad, and we chose anger and division.”

Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), who worked closely with Sinema on several bipartisan bills, said in a statement on X that lawmakers of her ilk “are becoming a dying breed: true leaders who are focused on doing what’s best for our country and getting results for the people they serve instead of feeding the rabid partisans of their base with empty platitudes, false promises, and excuses for getting nothing done.”

The progressive Gallego launched his campaign as a rejection of Sinema’s moderating influence on the Senate. Manchin and Sinema were the deciding votes to keep the legislative filibuster unchanged, as the rest of their caucus and the broader Democratic Party looked to weaken the supermajority requirement.

The two also helped cut down Democrats’ party-line agenda in 2021 and 2022, with Sinema holding firm against tax rate increases and eventually cutting a deal on the party’s massive health care, tax and climate bill known as the Inflation Reduction Act.

“By standing up to short-sighted partisan ideas, I protected our country’s economic growth and competitiveness, and kept taxes low during a time of rampant inflation,” Sinema said in her statement.

Arizona Republican Karie Lake speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, March 5, 2024.

The polls mostly showed Sinema in third place if she decided to run for reelection, but her bloc of moderate voters are still hugely influential in battleground Arizona; McCain Republicans still exist and suburban voters have helped tilt the state more blue in recent cycles. Since Sinema won her seat in 2018, Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) has won two Senate races and Lake lost a gubernatorial bid in 2022 to Democrat Katie Hobbs.

Now, Gallego and Lake will try to win over those moderates. In a statement after Sinema’s announcement, Gallego said “Democrats, Independents, and Republicans alike are coming together and rejecting Kari Lake and her dangerous positions” and asked for Sinema’s support.

But the GOP is projecting that Sinema’s exit will act as more of a boon to Lake than the liberal Gallego.

“An open seat in Arizona creates a unique opportunity for Republicans to build a lasting Senate majority this November. With recent polling showing Kyrsten Sinema pulling far more Republican voters than Democrat voters, her decision to retire improves Kari Lake’s opportunity to flip this seat,” said Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), who runs the Senate GOP’s campaign arm.



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