Talk of a primary challenge to unseat Sen. Kyrsten Sinema is ramping up in the wake of the Arizona Democrat’s decision to protect the filibuster at the cost of passing voting rights legislation.
The weekend will be James CarvilleOne of the top strategists in Democratic Party strategy-making claimed that Sinema would lose to a challenge by Rep. Ruben Gallego, a charismatic ex-Marine who represents Arizona’s 7th Congressional District. CNBCReports indicate that Democratic Party donors were so fedup with the first-term senator they were planning to finance a primary campaign to unseat them.
In 2018, Sinema won a squeaker of an electionMartha McSally was defeated. McSally was a weak candidate who struggled with Arizona voters. He would go on to lose a second Senate seat two years later. this time against Mark Kelly. These victories were critical to Democrats’ eventual building of a Senate majority.
Yet, during the past few months, Sinema, along with West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, has made it all but impossible for the Senate to pass two crucial packages of legislation — the Build Back Better Act, and voting rights protections to counter state-level GOP efforts to constrict the franchise.
Sinema protested Build Back Better’s high price tagHowever, when she was forced to, she seemed more concerned about the company’s efforts to rein in. Big Pharma. Where Manchin engaged in constant — albeit ultimately fruitless — negotiations with the White House over reshaping the bill in ways he felt he could get behind, Sinema was more of a cypher. According to colleagues in Congress, they simply didn’t know what she wanted and thus couldn’t really engage in negotiations with her.
She delivered a speech on voting rights legislation spirited defense of the filibuster as a needed guardrail to protect bipartisanship, despite the fact that bipartisanship is largely a dead letter in this Senate, and despite the fact that then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell rammed through former President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominees without any allowance for filibusters against them.
As a result, Sinema has handed veto power to a GOP that is determined to block any and all of President Joe Biden’s legislative agenda for the coming years. She made it almost impossible to pass federal laws protecting voting rights, given the avalanche of restrictions that are being voted into state laws across the country.
Sinema’s intransigent position regarding the filibuster is not enough to cause progressive anger. Sinema is increasingly seen by Arizona grassroots activists as dependent on big money. Last week, New York TimesReports indicate that less than 2 per cent of the $1.6million Senator Raised in the Fourth Quarter of 2021 was from small donations below $200. The fact that the Democratic grassroots sees this as equally alarming is the following: large amounts came her way from GOP donorsFrom conservative PACs, one affiliated with Fox News.
Democratic strategist Carville noted that this rage has grown over the past year and is now putting Sinema on increasingly unstable political ground. While she has considerable support among Republican and Independent voters in Arizona, even back in September — Before she stood in the way of implementing voter protections — fewer than one in five of the state’s Democrats had a very favorable view of her.
This contrasted with Senator Kelly who was the Democratic counterpart in Arizona, where 42 percent of Arizona Democrats held a very positive opinion. That same poll showed that four out of ten of the state’s Republican voters looked upon Sinema favorably — which might bode well for her in a general election but won’t help her (and could well hurt her) if she faces a serious challenger in the primaries.
In October, a Data for Progress pollIt was found that Sinema would be defeated by a number of candidates, including Representative Gallego and the mayors of Phoenix, Tucson, and that Gallego would defeat her in a head to head primary race. This is even if she is running in a multicandidate race. There haven’t been similar polls since Sinema’s blockade of the voting rights legislation, but it’s hard to see how that will have improved her standing among Democrats in her home state.
In light of Sinema’s actions in the last months, it is becoming more likely that Sinema will face a credible primary challenge. The newly formed Primary Sinema ProjectPart of the Change for Arizona 2024 PAC is raising money to channel to local organizations that are laying the foundation for a primary challenge. Two other PACs. Nuestro and CrowdPAC, and the Senate are also working to find viable challengers. grassroots group LUCHA, which is tapping into ActBlue to raise funds to primary the sitting senator.
The blue-ing of Arizona didn’t occur in a vacuum. Sinema and Kelly won their Senate seats, and Biden won the state’s 11 Electoral College votes, at the back-end of years of organizing by unions, by immigrants’ rights activists, by racial justice organizers, by progressive groups like Indivisible, and others. Sinema has over the past few weeks wasted the goodwill and support of nearly all of these groups.
The senator is likely betting on the fact that two-years is an inordinate amount of time in politics and that by 2024 all will be forgotten. She might be right; but it’s equally likely that these organizations, spurned and ignored by the senator they played a critical role in electing, will do everything in their power to replace her when the opportunity presents itself.