Kyrsten Sinema, the senior senator from Arizona, announced her departure from the Democratic Party Thursday evening. “I’ve registered as an Arizona independent,” she told CNN’s Jake Tapper in a television interview.
“A growing number of Arizonans and people like me just don’t feel like we fit neatly in one party’s box or the other. So, like many across the state and the nation, I decided to leave,” Sinema said. Afterward, when pushed by Jake Tapper about her views already being consistent with a moderate Democrat, Sinema said she didn’t anticipate anything would change.
Sinema, who was first elected in 2004 to the Arizona state legislature as a Democrat, has a complex partisan history. Before 2004, she was an Arizona Green Party member with a reputation as a progressive activist. She ran for office as an independent on one occasion and was involved with Ralph Nader’s 2000 presidential run. Sinema would succeed Republican Jeff Flake in the US Senate following the 2018 election.
As a Green Party member and even early on as a member of the Democratic Party, Kyrsten Sinema established a reputation as a progressive activist. However, she would gradually begin to pivot in the House, joining the Blue Dog Coalition and the New Democrat Coalition, both organizations known for housing conservatively-inclined members of the Democratic Party. More recently, her more moderated voting record on specific issues as a member of the Senate has begun to draw the ire of progressives on social media.
Lambasting the Republican and Democratic Parties, Sinema said that both organizations “created a pull toward the edges that you just unthinkingly support all of one party’s viewpoints.” Furthermore, such a pull has made it “difficult to find folks who are willing to work together and solve problems.” Sinema then touted her bipartisan work and that she could serve as a figure for those Americans who feel similarly.
Sinema is the chair of two sub-committees and has membership on several other committees. While Sinema didn’t explicitly address which party in the US Senate she would caucus with as an independent, she did allude that it would likely be her former Democratic Party, stating that she intends to “maintain her position on her committees.” Bernie Sanders and Angus King, the other two independent Senators, also caucus with the Democratic Party.
Krysten Sinema is just one of several ex-Democratic Party lawmakers who have announced their intention to leave the party this year, including former members of Congress Dan Lipinski and Tulsi Gabbard.