Arizona progressives are livid at moderate Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., for not supporting President Joe Biden’s leftist agenda and are threatening to challenge her in the 2024 Democrat primary.
“She thinks she’s like Teflon and nothing is going to stick to her; that’s misguided,” Phoenix-based activist Gilbert Romero told The Guardian. “We’ve [unseated] much more powerful people than Kyrsten Sinema.”
“She has betrayed her friends and the promise she made to the Arizona people,” tweeted Garrick McFadden, former vice chair of the Arizona Democratic Party. “She wants to play games, well in 2023 we start playing games with her.”
Opposing Sinema in a battleground state with a long history of conservatism and electing mavericks — most notably GOP Sens. Barry Goldwater and John McCain — could be risky for Democrats.
Sinema appealed to suburban women, independents, and disaffected Republicans by saying she’d be an “independent voice” before being elected to the Senate in 2018.
Sinema has joined Sen. Joe Manchin, of West Virginia, as Democrats opposed to Biden’s $3.5 trillion social spending bill. They also support the Senate filibuster, which demands 60 votes to end debate and pass legislation — something seemingly impossible in the current chamber divided evenly along party lines.
The two moderate senators have been the recent target of progressive activists, one of whom followed Sinema into a public bathroom to harass the senator for not supporting Biden’s massive programs.
“Senator Sinema’s position has been that she doesn’t ‘negotiate publicly’ and I don’t know what that means,” progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said, calling it “wrong” for her and Manchin to stand in the way of a bill supported by most of the party and the president.
While progressives say Sinema is an “obstructionist,” some Republicans and moderate Democrats consider her a “pragmatist,” The Guardian said Sunday.
Danny Seiden, president and chief executive of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, complimented Sinema’s “willingness to listen and not just toe the party line on all issues. I think that’s a rarity amongst both Democrats and Republicans these days.”
“Her ideological core is pragmatism,” said Chuck Coughlin, a Phoenix-based political consultant and anti-Trump former Republican. “She understands that if she is to succeed in Arizona, she must succeed in this lane.”
Activists find it baffling that Sinema has moved right as her state has moved left, The Guardian said. Biden won Arizona in last year’s presidential election, though Trump and supporters claimed voter fraud contributed to the outcome.
“The Arizona that existed in 2012 when she first got elected to Congress is not the Arizona that exists in 2021,” Romero said. “It’s a completely different landscape now.”
A recent poll by Phoenix-based firm OH Predictive Insights found that just 56% of Arizona Democrats had a favorable view of Sinema. Nearly one in three had an unfavorable view.