Jerod MacDonald-Evoy

(Arizona Mirror) U.S. Sen. Krysten Sinema announced Tuesday that she will not be seeking a second term after months of speculation about her political future following her decision in late 2022 to leave the Democratic Party.

Sinema, who built a reputation as a deal-maker who sought to bridge the partisan divide in the Senate to foster compromise, cited the increasing partisanship of American politics in a video she posted on X, formerly Twitter. She acknowledged that her style of governance was unpopular among voters, and said she would not seek reelection.

“The only political victories that matter these days are symbolic, attacking your opponents on cable news or social media,” she said. “I believe in my approach. But it is not what America wants right now.”

“It has been an honor to serve Arizona for the past 20 years,” she said.

Sinema, who changed her party affiliation from Democrat to independent in December 2022, has often taken fire from her own party for siding with Republicans on critical votes, chief among them to preserve the filibuster.

A former self-described progressive, Sinema has also come under fire from many liberals for taking money from corporate lobbyists. Sinema was also censured by the Arizona Democratic Party in 2022 for helping block the filibuster repeal. Shortly after she announced she would become an independent.

In her video message, Sinema cited bipartisan legislation that she worked on aimed at infrastructure and the CHIPS Act as major wins during her time in the Senate.

The announcement comes on the heels of the March 2 opening of the window for Arizona candidates to file the nomination petitions required to appear on the 2024 ballot. On Monday, Democratic Congressman Ruben Gallego filed more than 14,000 signatures for his bid to win Sinema’s Senate seat, double the 6,500 needed to be collected.

Sinema would have had to collect approximately 42,300 signatures by April 1 to advance straight to the November ballot as a candidate not affiliated with a political party. She also had yet to even declare her interest in seeking reelection, a requirement under Arizona law.

Gallego thanked Sinema for her service to the state and called on her to join him in “rejecting Kari Lake” and protecting “abortion access, tackling housing affordability, securing our water supply” and “defending our democracy.”

“That’s why Democrats, Independents, and Republicans alike are coming together and rejecting Kari Lake and her dangerous positions,” Gallego said in a written statement. “I welcome all Arizonans, including Senator Sinema, to join me in that mission.”

Lake, who lost a bid for governor in 2022, is widely viewed as the GOP front-runner for the Senate nomination. She is likely to face Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb in the primary election.

“As a Journalist, I covered Kyrsten Sinema for many years. We may not agree on everything, but I know she shares my love for Arizona,” Lake said in a written statement. “Senator Sinema had the courage to stand tall against the Far-Left in defense of the filibuster—despite the overwhelming pressure from the radicals in her party like Ruben Gallego who called on her to burn it all down.”

She added that she wishes Sinema “the best in her next chapter.”

Gov. Katie Hobbs, who was a legislative seatmate of Sinema’s when both were state lawmakers, praised the senator.

“Senator Sinema is a friend, and I thank her for her years of service to the State of Arizona. She has been an important partner in Washington, D.C. who has fought to bring critical advanced manufacturing investments to Arizona, secure our border, and invest in our state’s roads, bridges, and broadband infrastructure,” Hobbs said in a written statement. “I wish her well in her future endeavors and look forward to seeing what her next chapter has in store.”

Arizona’s other senator, Democrat Mark Kelly, congratulated Sinema on her career, adding that the Senate would “not be the same without her.”

“We’ve worked together to accomplish bipartisan legislation on infrastructure, marriage equality, gun safety, and more that wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for her being in that Senate seat,” Kelly said in a written statement.

Progressive groups were not as kind to Sinema.

“Good riddance. After being the deciding vote against popular policies to reduce costs for families, make billionaires pay their fair share, and strengthen voting rights, Kyrsten Sinema has been forced into an early retirement,” Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said in a statement. “While she looks to join her friends on Wall Street in 2024, Democrats will work to elect Ruben Gallego to fight for Arizona’s working families and be a bold Democratic leader in the Senate.”

Other Democratic leaders in the state used the announcement to go after Lake and push support for Gallego.

“The most disastrous thing for hardworking Arizonans would be a Senator Kari Lake,” Arizona Democratic Party Chair Yolanda Bejarano said in a written statement. “In contrast, candidates like Ruben Gallego have delivered results for Arizonans and will fight for the many things on the line this election. The Arizona Democratic Party will proudly support the Democratic nominee for Senate and help Arizonans reject Kari Lake’s extremism again in November.”

The progressive Change for Arizona 2024 PAC, which has worked to defeat Sinema, celebrated the announcement Tuesday, saying that Sinema “did the bidding of her wealthy donors” and blocked the agenda of President Joe Biden.

“We succeeded in first pushing her out of the party — by making clear she couldn’t win a Democratic primary — and now we’ve also helped push her out of the Senate. Good. Arizonans deserve better,” the PAC said in a statement. “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.”

Republicans, meanwhile, saw the announcement as an opportunity for the GOP to “build a lasting Senate majority this November,” according to a statement released by the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

“With recent polling showing Kyrsten Sinema pulling far more Republican voters than Democrat voters, her decision to retire improves Kari Lake’s opportunity to flip this seat,” NRSC Chair Steve Daines of Montana said.

Sinema was first elected to Congress in 2012, then won a Senate seat in 2018. She was a prodigious fund-raiser, and had about $10.6 million on hand at the end of 2023, more than Gallego’s $6.5 million, Lake’s $1.1 million and Lamb’s $256,000. However, her fundraising had dramatically fallen off after she left the Democratic Party. By the final quarter of 2023, she raised just $595,000, less than one-fifth what Gallego raised.