PHOENIX (AP) — U.S. Senator Kirsten Sinema is becoming increasingly isolated from some of her party’s most powerful officials and donors after playing a key role in derailing the Voting Rights Act, which many Democrats see as essential to the preservation of democracy.
Arizona Democratic Party leaders voted Saturday to denounce Blue in a symbolic condemnation of the woman who just three years ago won the party’s first seat in a generation in the Arizona Senate.
Donors are threatening to leave. Several groups are already raising money for a possible primary fight, though it won’t be on the ballot until 2024. Young activists hold a second hunger strike to draw attention to Cinema’s vote.
The moves give a glimpse of the staunch opposition Cinema is likely to face within her own party two years before she next appears on the ballot. The independent streak that has given her huge influence on the agenda in Washington has infuriated many Democrats at home who are determined to prevent her from being re-elected.
“Any reservoir of goodwill she had is gone,” said Rep. Ruben Gallego, an Arizona Democrat who could challenge Sinema on the left.
Cinema’s advocates say no one who has watched her over the past decade should be surprised by her plight. She frequently opposed her party in the House of Representatives, ran an aggressively moderate campaign for the Senate, and never wavered in her support for the pirates.
“For three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives and now in the Senate, Kirsten has always promised Arizona people that she will be an independent voice for the state and not for any political party,” Sinema spokeswoman Hannah Hurley said in a statement. vote. “She’s delivered for the Arizona people and has always been honest about where she stands.”
Hurley repeated her comments in response to the censure.
Sinema’s influence comes from a 50-50 split in the Senate, essentially giving any senator the power to override the law, an option that Sinema has repeatedly used.
But she faces a political dynamic unlike another moderate Senate thwarting Democratic ambitions, Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Representing a state that former President Donald Trump has increased by nearly 39 percentage points in 2020, Manchin is unlikely to face a progressive rival who gains momentum.
However, Arizona is dominated by Democrats. Joe Biden was the first Democratic presidential candidate to lead the state since 1996, and the party is looking to build on that success. That makes it hard for a Democrat to simply ignore the left here, especially in the primaries.
Sinema supports the Democratic Voting Rights Act but strongly opposes it, changing or repealing the Senate filibuster rule, which effectively requires 60 out of 100 votes to pass most laws. On Wednesday night, she joined Manchin and all Republicans in opposing a one-time rule change so that the bill could be passed by a simple majority.
LaFonza Butler, president of Emily’s List, an important fundraising group for Democratic women who support abortion rights, said in a statement that Cinema’s vote “means she will be alone in the next election.” She said the group would not support her re-election unless she supported the promotion of voting rights legislation.
The Primary Sinema project, which is raising money for a possible major challenge, said it has raised more than $300,000 from nearly 12,000 donors.
“We literally do everything we are physically, perhaps in terms of putting our bodies on the line and trying to beg for that action, because the consequences (of not acting) are far worse than starving or going to jail or both. and more,” Shana said. Gallagher, one of about three dozen young people who went on a hunger strike to protest Sinema and Manchin. Gallagher is a co-founder of Un-PAC, formed last year to bring young people together to support the enactment of voting rights law.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont whose fundraising and mobilization skills are virtually unmatched on the left, suggested he would support archrivals Sinema and Manchin.
Cinema says the filibuster is imposing bipartisanship on Capitol Hill and ensuring that millions of Americans, represented by the minority party, have the right to vote. According to her, its abolition will lead to sharp fluctuations in legislation, depending on the ruling party.
“When one side only needs to negotiate with itself, politics will inextricably shift from the middle to the extremes,” she said in her speech last week, providing the most extensive explanation of her point of view on this issue.
Hostility to the left solidifies her position among the independent women who decide the outcome of races in Arizona, said Brian Murray, a Republican Party consultant in Phoenix and a former chief executive of the Arizona Republican Party. Sinema displayed the “independent” sensibility that made late GOP Senator John McCain the favorite son in Arizona, and with her appeal to independents, “she’ll be almost impossible to beat,” he said.
“Bernie Sanders attacks Arizona Senator?” Murray said. “I would say, ‘Hey, thanks. You are helping me get re-elected.”
Even Republican Gov. Doug Ducey paid tribute to Cinema for standing up for and defending the Senate rule she believes in.
“I’m glad she’s trying to bring people together,” Ducey told reporters. Cinema was one of Ducey’s fiercest critics in 2020 when she ruthlessly criticized his mild response to the pandemic.
Sinema’s fight with the left has overshadowed a 2022 re-election bid for Mark Kelly, another Democratic senator from Arizona, who will try to hold on to the special-election seat he won.
With Sinema getting the most attention, Kelly managed to avoid being a filibuster throughout his 2020 campaign and his first year in office. Hours before he had to vote on Wednesday, Kelly advocated a one-time workaround to pass the voting rights bill.
On Saturday, Arizona Democratic Party leaders took the rather unusual step of formally condemning Sinema. In September, a large group of leaders voted to put Sinema “in the know” that its votes on filibustering and other Democratic priorities, including Biden’s massive increase in social service spending, would be scrutinized.
The move has no practical implications, but shows the frustration of key Democratic activists. Whether the party withdraws its support for Sinema’s 2024 bid depends on the leaders elected after the 2022 midterm elections.
The Arizona Democratic Party is a divisive, diverse coalition, but protecting voter rights is too important, said Raquel Teran, state senator and chairman of the Arizona Democratic Party. On this issue, Sinema “failed,” she said.
“She has an incredible ability to work across the aisle,” Teran said. “Let’s see how this ability will be used to get the right to vote.”