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Slamming increasingly partisan politics, Sinema will not run again

Arizona independent says outcomes have become less important ‘than beating the other guy’

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz., said she will not seek reelection this year.
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz., said she will not seek reelection this year. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Decrying that “compromise is a dirty word” in politics now, Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema said Tuesday she will not seek reelection this year.

The Arizona independent, who was elected to her current term as a Democrat, was facing an unclear path to victory in a multicandidate field with Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego in the race.

In a statement, Sinema said that despite members of Congress working together to enact laws to modernize infrastructure, ensure clean water and deliver “good jobs and safer communities, Americans still choose to retreat farther to their partisan corners” with outcomes less important “than beating the other guy.”

“Compromise is a dirty word,” she added. “Because I choose civility, understanding, listening, working together to get stuff done, I will leave the Senate at the end of this year.”

Sinema, whose announcement came not long after the Senate jettisoned a bipartisan deal she helped craft on border security as part of the effort to provide supplemental assistance to Israel, Ukraine and the Indo-Pacific, developed a reputation as a deal-maker.

But she created no shortage of adversaries, particularly among Democrats — from whom she continued to get committee assignments even after declaring her independent status in December 2022.

Before that, she repeatedly angered progressives because, among other reasons, she was a leading opponent of getting rid of the chamber’s filibuster rules, which would have made it easier for Democrats to advance their priorities under President Joe Biden.

“My support for retaining the 60-vote threshold is not based on the importance of any particular policy. It is based on what is best for our democracy,” she wrote in a Washington Post op-ed in June 2021. “The filibuster compels moderation and helps protect the country from wild swings between opposing policy poles.”

But in part because of that, Sinema proved adept at making deals with the Republican side of the aisle. Notably, she worked with then-Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, to help lead the creation of what became Biden’s trademark bipartisan infrastructure law.

“She’s been a partner with us on many critical issues that matter to the American people,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said when asked about the senator’s announcement.

Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., said the Senate “will greatly miss Senator Sinema’s strong bipartisan leadership” and that she was a “dying breed” of leaders focused on results “instead of feeding the rabid partisans of their base with empty platitudes, false promises and excuses for getting nothing done.”

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said that Sinema had “blazed a trail of accomplishments” in a statement that also said he was “fully behind” Gallego “and look forward to winning this race with him.”

She gave a speech in defense of bipartisanship at the McConnell Center at the University of Louisville in September 2022.

“From my experience, everyday Americans don’t immediately retreat to their partisan corners in their day-to-day lives. In fact, most of us believe that those partisan labels needlessly divide us,” Sinema said in those remarks.

Gallego, D-Ariz., was already among those actively campaigning for the Senate seat Sinema now holds, and her path to victory in a multicandidate race, likely against Gallego and former GOP gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake, was at best unclear.

Sinema likely would have needed to gather more than 42,000 of signatures by April 1 to get her name on the ballot.

A group that organized first under the banner of “Primary Sinema” and later changed its name to “Replace Sinema PAC” when she left the Democratic Party issued a statement applauding her exit.

“Arizonans deserve better,” the statement said. “We now must put all of our efforts into helping elect Ruben Gallego, a pro-choice champion who will fight for Arizonans every day, over MAGA extremist Kari Lake. Game on.”

Another progressive group, Indivisible, issued a statement with the headline: “Enjoy the lobbying gig, and leave us alone.”

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the November race a Toss-up.

Herb Jackson contributed to this report.

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