Out Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona says she won’t seek re-election, avoiding 3-way race

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, of Ariz. speaks to reporters at the Capitol in Washington, Nov. 29, 2022.
Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, of Ariz. speaks to reporters at the Capitol in Washington, Nov. 29, 2022.
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

PHOENIX (AP) — Independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona announced Tuesday that she won’t run for a second term after her estrangement from the Democratic Party left her politically homeless and without a clear path to reelection.

Sinema’s announcement comes after Senate Republicans blocked a bipartisan bill to help secure the U.S.-Mexico border and deliver military aid to Ukraine and Israel, which Sinema spent months negotiating. She’d hoped it would be a signature achievement addressing one of Washington’s most intractable challenges, as well as a powerful endorsement for her increasingly lonely view that cross-party dealmaking remains possible.

But in the end, Sinema’s border-security ambitions, and her career in Congress, were swallowed by the partisanship that has paralyzed Congress.

“I love Arizona and I am so proud of what we’ve delivered,” she said in a video posted to social media. “Because I choose civility, understanding, listening, working together to get stuff done, I will leave the Senate at the end of this year.”

Sinema’s decision avoids a three-way contest in one of the most closely watched 2024 Senate races, a hard-to-forecast scenario that spawned fierce debate among political operatives about whether one major party would benefit in the quest for the Senate majority. Most analysts agreed Sinema had faced significant, likely insurmountable hurdles if she’d decided to run.

Sinema, the first openly bisexual person elected to the Senate, had raised money for a potential reelection campaign and significantly stepped up her public appearances in Arizona throughout 2023, though her activities slowed as her announcement neared. During her five years in office, she built a formidable campaign bank account pegged at $10.6 million on Dec. 31, 2023, but her quarterly fundraising was outpaced by Democrat Ruben Gallego and Republican Kari Lake.

Sinema was a Democrat for most of her political career but left the party late last year, saying she doesn’t fit into the two-party system. She had alienated many of her colleagues and her party’s base by blocking progressive priorities, often siding with business interests. In an era tribalistic party loyalty, she went out of her way to build relationships with Republicans.

When Sinema became an independent in late 2022, Democrats feared she would split the left-of-center vote and allow a Republican to win.

Republicans have a favorable map in the battle for control of the Senate. Democrats will be forced to defend 23 seats, including Sinema’s and two others held by independents who usually vote with Democrats, compared with just 10 seats for Republicans.