“She should join her friends on Wall Street in 2024, and Democrats should nominate someone truly on the side of the working class who can unite and win Arizona,” said one progressive.
While the White House and Democratic congressional leadership are publicly hoping U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s departure from the party won’t change much in Washington, D.C., progressives in her home state of Arizona and across the nation are already pushing to replace the newly declared Independent if she runs for reelection in 2024.
The “Primary Sinema” campaign rebranded on Saturday as “Replace Sinema” following the senator’s Friday announcement—which came just days after Democrats secured 51 seats in the Senate with Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) winning his second crucial runoff in as many years.
The Change for Arizona 2024 PAC project was launched in September “to educate the public about the ways Kyrsten Sinema has let down Arizonans and caved to special interests,” said the campaign, which has raised over $500,000 from thousands of grassroots donors. “Now, as Kyrsten Sinema has left the Democratic Party, the group’s effort will shift toward defeating her in a potential three-way general election and replacing her with a real Democrat.”
Sinema—who insists she won’t caucus with the GOP—is now one of three Independents in the upper chamber, joining Sens. Angus King (Maine) and Bernie Sanders (Vt.), who both caucus with the Democrats. Sanders notably sought the party’s nomination for president in 2016 and 2020.
The “Replace Sinema” campaign on Sunday spotlighted Sanders’ morning appearance on CNN, during which he called her out for so far serving as a “corporate Democrat” who, along with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), has “sabotaged enormously important legislation.”
“I happen to suspect that it’s probably a lot to do with politics back in Arizona,” Sanders said of Sinema abandoning the party. “I think the Democrats there are not all that enthusiastic about somebody who helped sabotage some of the most important legislation that protects the interests of working families and voting rights and so forth.”
“So I think it really has to do with her political aspirations for the future in Arizona,” added Sanders, who said he’d be watching closely to see who may challenge her in two years. “But for us, I think nothing much has changed in terms of the functioning of the U.S. Senate.”
👀”I think the Democrats are not all that enthusiastic about somebody who helps sabotage some of the most important legislation that protects the interests of working families and voting rights and so forth.”https://t.co/eQOyYWvmKy
— Replace Sinema (@ReplaceSinema) December 11, 2022
In response to a video Sinema shared about her decision—which she has framed as an attempt to "stay focused on solving problems and getting things done for everyday Arizonans"— Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) tweeted that "not once in this long soliloquy does Sinema offer a single concrete value or policy she believes in."
"She lays out no goals for Arizonans, no vision, no commitments," the progressive "Squad" member added. "It's 'no healthcare, just vibes' for Senate. People deserve more. Grateful this race and nomination has opened up."
Pushing back against Sinema's statements about the move, Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) said: "Bye Felicia… This isn't about the party, this is about your pharma donors! Stop lying!"
Others also took aim at Sinema's wealthy donors and history of obstructing key priorities of President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats, including efforts to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and increase taxes on corporations.
"We are not surprised that she would once again center herself," Alejandra Gomez, executive director of Living United for Change in Arizona (LUCHA), told The New York Times. "This is another unfortunate, selfish act. It is yet another betrayal—there [has] been a slew of betrayals, but this is one of the ultimates, because voters elected her as Democrat, and she turned her back on those voters."
While suggesting her shift won't impede the party, Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said in a statement that "this is a predictable outcome for Sinema as she has entirely separated herself from any semblance of representing hardworking and struggling Arizonans. Her alignment with wealthy and corporate interests has crippled her ability to support the Democratic agenda."
Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, told The Hill that "she should join her friends on Wall Street in 2024, and Democrats should nominate someone truly on the side of the working class who can unite and win Arizona."
Morris Pearl, chair of the Patriotic Millionaires, highlighted that "in the past year alone, she torpedoed efforts to raise corporate taxes in Biden's Build Back Better Act, killed the momentum to change the carried interest loophole in the Inflation Reduction Act, and tanked the movement to change the filibuster to safeguard American elections—all things that Democrats rightly wanted to do to make life better for working people."
"By registering as an Independent, Sinema is just admitting what the rest of us have known for years—she has no allegiance to the Democratic Party or Democratic voters. Sinema works for her ultrarich, corporate donors, and no one else," he added. "Her label change might improve her prospects of winning a corporate board room seat after her inevitable demise in 2024, but it won't change the fact that she has never and will never have the best interests of ordinary Arizonans and Americans at heart."