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Sinema Tells D.C. Democrats ‘Not Yet’ on Senate Bid

Sinema is running for re-election in a competitive district in Arizona. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Sinema is running for re-election in a competitive district in Arizona. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Among her peers in Arizona’s congressional delegation, there was a time when Rep. Kyrsten Sinema seen as a top prospect to carry the Democratic Party’s mantle against Republican Sen. John McCain when he seeks re-election next year.  

But after a court last month upheld the state’s congressional map drawn by an independent commission and thus, the makeup of her Democratic-leaning House district, national Democrats think that Sinema, one of the party’s rising stars, might just wait for another opportunity down the road.  

“Kyrsten Sinema has told multiple national committees that barring John McCain not being the Republican nominee, she will not be running for Senate,” said one national Democrat with ties to the Arizona Senate race.  

“She’s too smart to run that risk,” said another national Democrat of Sinema’s thinking about a possible tough matchup against McCain, a deeply imbedded incumbent who will have held the seat for nearly three decades when voters head to the polls.  

McCain does have a primary opponent in state Sen. Kelli Ward. She entered the race in July, but hasn’t impressed national groups like the Senate Conservatives Fund or the Club for Growth, that could provide support to boost her campaign against a well-funded adversary like McCain.  

In turn, Democrats like Ward are not really taking her candidacy seriously, either.  

In Washington, Sinema had been a top contender among Democrats to seek the seat. Being from Phoenix, she has risen in politics in its populous media market, unlike Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, the party’s sole candidate, who represents the rural eastern part of the state.  

In was their view that Sinema, with her fundraising strength and middle-of-the-road persona, might just have posed the biggest threat in the tough race to beat McCain, a moderate, self-proclaimed “maverick” who scores well with the state’s independent-minded voters.  

Sinema has little reason to hurry. She represents a relatively safe Democratic district and could save her fire for a potential challenge to Sen. Jeff Flake — a Republican whose popularity doesn’t match McCain’s — in 2018.  

So far, national groups like the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee have yet to endorse Kirkpatrick like they have in other competitive races like Rep. Tammy Duckworth in Illinois. An endorsement from them could enhance her credibility with donors and the party’s establishment who loathe the notion of an expensive primary in a state where Democrats are already expecting to have to fight hard to get anywhere close to a win in the general election.

When asked, a Sinema spokeswoman declined to address whether she was in or out of the race, but provided a statement in which the congresswoman said, “It is a privilege to represent the people of Arizona’s ninth district and I remain committed to my work for our veterans, small businesses, and families in Arizona.”

McCain’s Senate seat is rated Leans Republican  by the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report /Roll Call while Sinema’s 9th District is rated rated Safe Democrat .


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