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Sinema won’t run for reelection in Arizona

Sinema won’t run for reelection in Arizona

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) is opting against running for reelection, avoiding a messy three-way race that would have put Democrats in a difficult position.

Sinema made the announcement in a video on social media, arguing that voters aren’t interested in electing members focused on compromise.

“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.”

Sinema, a first-term senator, has been one of the foremost players in Senate deal-making over the years, headlined by her work on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the CHIPS and Science Act and the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. Most recently, she was a key figure in bipartisan border negotiations — along with Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy (Conn.) and Republican Sen. James Lankford (Okla.) — that landed with a thud among Republicans.

She also became the source of frustration among progressives over her refusal to support President Biden’s Build Back Better package, a multitrillion dollar proposal she and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) declined to back. They eventually agreed to greenlight the Inflation Reduction Act.

The two also declined to join with calls by Biden and other Senate Democrats to repeal the filibuster in order to pass top priorities, including voting rights legislation and to cement abortion rights after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

The move by Sinema, who changed her party affiliation from Democrat to independent in late 2022, means the Arizona Senate race has largely been solidified as a match-up between Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego and Republican Kari Lake.

Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb is also running on the GOP side, but Lake is seen as the heavy favorite in the Republican primary.

Sinema’s decision will also provide Democrats with a sign of relief. Another run by the independent would have left Senate Democrats in a bind over whether to back Sinema, who is no longer a Democrat but still caucuses with the party and has an incumbency advantage, or to back Gallego. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement shortly after Sinema’s announcement that Democrats are “fully behind [Gallego’s] candidacy.”

The nonpartisan election handicapper Cook Political Report rates Sinema’s seat as “toss up.”

Gallego on Tuesday thanked Sinema for “her nearly two decades of service to our state.”

“Arizona, we are at a crossroads. Protecting abortion access, tackling housing affordability, securing our water supply, defending our democracy — all of this and more is on the line,” he wrote on X, the platform formerly called Twitter. “It’s time Democrats, Independents, and Republicans come together and reject Kari Lake and her dangerous positions.”

Lake, meanwhile, said she and Sinema “may not agree on everything, but I know she shares my love for Arizona.”

“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 wrote on X.

Senate Republicans in recent weeks had expected that Sinema would decide against seeking a second term and had turned their attention to a potential Gallego-versus-Lake match-up.

An Emerson College Polling/The Hill survey in late February found Sinema trailing both Gallego and Lake.

Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), argued shortly after the decision that the Republicans are now in a stronger position to claw back the seat.

“With recent polling showing Kyrsten Sinema pulling far more Republicans than Democrat voters, her decision to retire improves Kari Lake’s opportunity to flip this seat,” Daines said in a statement.

But it’s not immediately certain who Sinema’s exit benefits most. The Emerson College Polling/The Hill survey also found that in a head-to-head match-up between Gallego and Lake, Gallego led by 7 points, with 15 percent undecided.

Daines and the NRSC officially endorsed Lake last month. They have touted her talent as a candidate and a revised message focused on the economy and immigration, rather election fraud, which was a major focal point of her 2022 gubernatorial campaign.

Sinema was facing an uphill climb on a number of fronts. Outside of the polling disadvantage, she would have had to collect 42,000 signatures by April 1 in order to get on the statewide ballot. The threshold in the state is higher for independent candidates than it is for those under a party banner. Gallego on Monday turned in more than 14,000 signatures — a figure more than double the requirement.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre reacted to the news that broke during the daily press briefing, noting that the White House has worked “closely” with Sinema on “key, important bills,” including the border security deal out of the Senate.

“She’s been a partner with us on many critical issues that matter to the American people, and we think that’s important,” Jean-Pierre told reporters.

Updated at 4:40 p.m. Alex Gangitano contributed.

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