Sen. Kyrsten Sinema Announces She Won’t Run for Re-Election

Tom Brenner/Reuters
Tom Brenner/Reuters

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) has decided not to run for re-election in 2024.

In a video announcement posted to X on Tuesday afternoon, Sinema defended her record of centrist dealmaking but acknowledged she had no viable path to a second term.

“I believe in my approach, but it’s not what America wants right now,” Sinema said. “Because I choose civility, understanding, listening, working together to get stuff done, I will leave the Senate at the end of this year.”

The independent senator's long-awaited decision finally brings into focus the Arizona Senate race, which will be one of the most competitive of the 2024 cycle. Instead of a volatile and messy three-person race, Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) and GOP candidate Kari Lake will battle to win the seat in November.

On Capitol Hill, Sinema’s announcement marks the end of an era in which she was a pivotal swing vote and dealmaker. A determined centrist who embraced aggravating Democrats as much as she delighted in working closely with Republicans, Sinema was instrumental in killing or diluting Democratic proposals on economic and tax policy—not to mention quashing a push to reform Senate rules.

At the same time, Sinema’s imprint was all over a string of consequential legislative achievements, such as the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the 2022 compromise gun reform deal. Indeed, Sinema’s three-minute announcement video amounted to a victory lap for her legislative record.

Notably, Sinema now joins two other like-minded centrists—Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Mitt Romney (R-UT)—in the ranks of dealmakers who will be gone from the Senate chamber next year.

According to journalist McKay Coppins’ biography of Romney, Sinema—never known for her humility, even by politician standards—privately seemed satisfied with her accomplishments.

“I saved the Senate by myself,” Sinema allegedly said. “That’s good enough for me.”

Speculation has swirled for years over how Sinema would approach the 2024 election. In the first year of Joe Biden’s presidency, her standing within the Democratic Party cratered over her resistance to aspects of their agenda.

Sinema was seen as guaranteed to lose a Democratic primary election. But she circumvented that risk by announcing in December 2022 that she would formally leave the Democratic Party.

From that point until Tuesday, the senator said virtually nothing about her plans, making colleagues in both parties sweat over what she might do. She held out the suspense for as long as possible, too, making her announcement barely a month before the deadline to file for the race.

But there were plenty of signs that Sinema would bow out. At the end of last year, when her campaign would have been expected to rev up, Sinema’s fundraising was anemic—but she burned through hundreds of thousands of dollars on personal security and perks like private air travel on corporate-owned jets.

Indeed, Sinema’s questionable spending habits offered a veritable treasure trove of attack ad fodder. In January, The Daily Beast reported that her Senate office spent $210,000 in taxpayer funds on private air travel, an eyebrow-raising expense by Capitol Hill standards.

On the campaign side, Sinema—a dedicated marathoner and triathlete—exhibited a pattern of scheduling fundraising events around her races, technically allowing her to pay for luxury hotel stays with campaign funds, The Daily Beast reported last year.

In particular, ethics watchdogs were alarmed at Sinema’s astronomical spending on personal security, much of which was steered to Vrindavan Bellord, the sister of Sinema’s friend and former colleague Tulsi Gabbard. Sinema’s campaign and PAC have paid out over $1.2 million since 2022 to an LLC linked to Bellord, who appears to have no other clients.

If Sinema were concerned about the optics of her use of donor and taxpayer funds, she never acted like it or showed it. But her spending patterns were covered extensively in the Arizona press and likely played some role in the senator’s woeful approval ratings back home.

Still, both parties may be relieved at Sinema’s decision not to run. Public opinion polls had routinely shown that she had no shot of actually winning a race against Gallego and Lake, but attracted enough support to be a spoiler for potentially either of them.

While Gallego and Lake lobbied attacks on Sinema as if they were running against her—with Gallego being particularly aggressive on that front for the past year—both sounded conciliatory notes on Tuesday in reacting to the news.

In a statement, Gallego thanked Sinema for her “two decades of service to our state” and invited his colleague to work with him to defeat Lake and protect abortion rights, among other things.

In a post on X, Lake praised Sinema and her opposition to changing the Senate’s 60-vote threshold to pass most legislation, while attacking Gallego for his support of ending the filibuster. “We may not agree on everything, but I know she shares my love for Arizona,” Lake said of Sinema. “I wish Senator Sinema the best in her next chapter.”

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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