Kyrsten Sinema Says She's Leaving Democratic Party

'I’ve never fit neatly into any party box,' says Arizona senator
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 9, 2022 6:10 AM CST
Sen. Sinema Says She's Leaving Democratic Party
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema speaks during a Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee hearing, Sept. 14, 2022.   (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

Days after Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock won the runoff election in Georgia, the 51-49 majority the party was expecting in Congress is looking shakier. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema tells CNN that she is leaving the Democratic Party and registering as an independent. The Arizona senator declined to say whether she would formally caucus with Democrats like the other two independent senators, Maine's Sen. Angus King and Vermont's Sen. Bernie Sanders. "I'm going to still come to work and hopefully serve on the same committees I’ve been serving on and continue to work well with my colleagues at both political parties," she says. Nothing will change about her "values and behavior," she says.

"I’ve never fit neatly into any party box. I’ve never really tried. I don’t want to," Sinema says. "Removing myself from the partisan structure—not only is it true to who I am and how I operate, I also think it’ll provide a place of belonging for many folks across the state and the country, who also are tired of the partisanship." In 2018, Sinema became the first woman—and the first Democrat in more than 20 years—to be elected to the Senate from Arizona. Like Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, Sinema was already known as a centrist, opposed to moves like weakening the filibuster. Politico reports the switch means Manchin, "a pivotal swing vote in the 50-50 chamber" will keep "some but not all of his outsized influence in the Democratic caucus."

Sinema says she informed Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of her decision Thursday and she doesn't "anticipate that anything will change about the Senate structure." In an Arizona Republic op-ed, she writes that she has worked "proudly with senators in both parties who have similarly rejected political extremes and forged consensus, helping drain some of the poison from today’s politics." "Like a lot of Arizonans, I have never fit perfectly in either national party," she writes. The 46-year-old wouldn't tell CNN whether she is going to seek reelection in 2024, but she said she's not planning to run for president. (More Kyrsten Sinema stories.)

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