Kyrsten Sinema has ranked other Democrats, but will it matter in her home state of Arizona?

While National Democrats, including President Joe Biden, are battling with Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema’s positions in an evenly divided Senate, progressives in this country are launching campaigns to pressure the state senator and threaten a primary challenger in 2024.

But Arizona is far from a blue state, and some argue that Sinema’s opposition to parts of the Biden agenda is in line with what she campaigned for: an independent, moderate voice to represent the often bizarre political inclinations of Arizona.

The former Green Party activist, who once criticized a presidential candidate for trying to gain Republican support, is now a moderate thorn in the side of the president.

Progressives express frustration over Sinema, which they say works against an already moderate president and makes it more difficult to adopt democratic priorities. And activists are stepping up the pressure on her with crowdfunding campaigns and protests, even after she followed her into a bathroom while at home in Arizona last week, an action widely condemned by leaders on both sides of the aisle.

Sinema also faced protesters at the airport last weekend and asked her why she is against Biden’s agenda in the Senate. On her flight, she was contacted by a DACA recipient who asked for a commitment from her to support a path to citizenship. Protesters say they are having a hard time getting meetings with Sinema, so they are turning to airwaves and major fundraising campaigns to increase the pressure.

Common Defense, an organization run by progressive veterans, places a seven-digit ad purchase to target Sinema and pushes her to help pass Biden’s “Build Back Better” agenda.

“I feel like she’s not delivering to us as part of her campaign was about lowering prescription drug costs, and that’s something the Build Back Better Act does. And she’s come out against it, and again, no really good reason. to, why, “Naveed Shah of Common Defense told ABC News.

Opposition to Sinema did not begin with infrastructure. At least two new political action committees have launched in response to Sinema’s views since Biden took office, and both tried to bankroll a primary challenger if Sinema does not change its mind about the filibuster.

Kai Newkirk, a progressive organizer who helped choose Sinema in 2018, is part of the effort to pressure Sinema to fall in line with Biden’s agenda in the Senate by using one of the new political action committees to send a clear message : Move out of the way Biden’s agenda may pass, otherwise Democrats will look elsewhere for a Senate candidate in 2024. He and other activists launched a conditional crowd-sourcing campaign to fund a primary challenger to Sinema, which raised $ 100,000 in one week.

Arizona Democrats recently threatened a no-confidence motion if Sinema continued to stand in the way of filibuster reform that would help secure Biden’s agenda, an issue they point to as the biggest blockade of democratic success in Washington.

“We are at a time when we need federal action and nothing is happening there,” Senator Martín Quezada told a progressive news media. “I was expecting the Kyrsten Sinema that I had seen in the legislature. I was always impressed with her intelligence, her aggressiveness and her commitment to values ​​that we supported. That was what I hoped we would get, but she did not. “She has been the exact opposite of what we thought we chose.”

Some of the dissatisfaction with Sinema stems from a lack of clarity about what exactly she wants. She originally ran for State House in the 2000s as an independent and pushed for progressive agendas. As her political career developed and she gained larger constituencies, she continued to move to the center. Now, in the Senate majority for the first time, she has been in and out of meetings with the White House and, along with West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, is one of two Democrats blocking movement for Biden’s infrastructure package.

Even her colleagues are unclear about what exactly she and Manchin are fishing for.

“Now is the time, I would say for both senators, make your mark and close the deal,” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois said last week. “What is it you want? What is your ultimate goal? It’s time to stop talking about it and talk directly to it.”

Aside from her lack of support for some aspects of Biden’s agenda, some Democrats claim her actions could hurt first-year Senator Mark Kelly, a Democrat, when he is up for re-election next year.

“I think the risk is that it will be harder to re-elect Kelly so that the Democrats generally retain their majority because we have not been able to deliver what we were elected to if Sinema continues to do what she is. now, “said Newkirk.” You must keep your promises and make a difference in the lives of the electorate so that they can get you back in office.

Groups that organized for her argue that it is difficult to get a meeting with her office and that when they do, they are often met with non-response.

“She does not explain what she is doing or where she really stands in front of her constituents. And it is absurd and insulting … to feel that she does not even have to explain to the people who chose her – that she is there to represent – where she stands on these specific issues, “said Newkirk.

But all that may not matter. While Arizona elected Democrats at the top of their vote in 2020 – in both presidential and senate races – only former President Bill Clinton and President Joe Biden have broken Arizona’s tendency to vote red for its presidential candidates. Biden won only the state by 0.3%, a reminder that some Democrats’ imagination about a deep blue Arizona could still be far away.

Samara Klar, an associate professor at the University of Arizona’s school of government and public policy, said that despite many Democrats being angry at Sinema, Arizona voters have historically loved a candidate who is willing to hold on to their beliefs, even if they are not not popular within their own party at the time.

“Sinema and Mark Kelly both ran and won at this centrist meeting. They are who they are, they are not going to be typical party politicians,” she said.

“Even among Democrats, we tend to see slightly more right-wing issues and preferences for centristness and moderate candidates than we usually see nationally. In fact, I would say that Kyrsten Sinema was largely elected thanks to that,” she says. added.

However, Sinema, which only won its election in 2018 by almost three points, would still have to win a democratic primary, Newkirk claims.

“If she runs as an independent, she’s not an institution like John McCain. The votes are not there. She must win the Democratic primary, and if she continues on this path, she will not be able to, but she will continue to dig in. her heels, “said Newkirk.

Sinema has often said she sees Senator John McCain as an inspiration and is sometimes branded as a politician cut in the same cloth. But Chuck Coughlin, a Arizona GOP strategist who has seen Sinema’s rise in national politics, told ABC News that these comparisons are lacking.

“People knew who John McCain was – it’s not something to be defined by others,” Coughlin said. “And she does not have that kind of depth of roots in the public consciousness. She is being defined right now. This is a moment in her life that will define her in the future.”


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