Sinema leaves Democratic Party, registers as independent

Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema announced Friday that she has registered as an independent, but Democrats will still retain the majority in the Senate.
Published: Dec. 9, 2022 at 5:30 AM MST|Updated: Dec. 9, 2022 at 5:28 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5/AP) -- Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona announced Friday that she has registered as an independent, but she does not plan to caucus with Republicans, ensuring Democrats will retain their narrow majority in the Senate.

She faces reelection in 2024, and has been a vibrant yet often unpredictable force in the Senate, tending toward the state’s independent streak and frustrating Democratic colleagues at times with her overtures to Republicans and opposition to Democratic priorities. “I just don’t fit well into a traditional party system,” Sinema she said in an interview Friday.

In the interview, Sinema said she hasn’t decided whether she will run for reelection. But she said this was the time to be “true to myself and true to the values of the Arizonans I represent.” “I don’t expect anything to change for me,” she said. “This will just be a further affirmation of my style of working across all the political boundaries with anyone to try and get something done.”

Democrats were set to hold a 51-49 edge in the Senate come January after the victory Tuesday by Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock in Georgia’s runoff election. The Senate is now split 50-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris the tiebreaking vote for Democrats.

In a statement, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Sinema had informed him of her decision and asked to keep her committee assignments — effectively keeping her in the Democratic fold. “Kyrsten is independent; that’s how she’s always been,” Schumer said. “I believe she’s a good and effective senator and am looking forward to a productive session in the new Democratic majority Senate.”

Sinema told Politico in an interview that she will not caucus with Republicans and that she plans to keep voting as she has since winning election to the Senate in 2018 after three House terms. “Nothing will change about my values or my behavior,” she said.

Sinema, who has modeled her political approach on the maverick style of the late Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, will join a small but influential group of independent senators aligned with the Democrats — Sen. Angus King of Maine and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

Sinema’s most prominent potential primary challenger is Rep. Ruben Gallego, who has a long history of feuding with Sinema. “When politicians are more focused on denying the opposition party a victory than they are on improving Americans’ lives, the people who lose are everyday Americans,” Sinema wrote. “That’s why I have joined the growing numbers of Arizonans who reject party politics by declaring my independence from the broken partisan system in Washington. I registered as an Arizona independent.”