‘Political earthquake’: Arizona experts weigh in on Sen. Sinema jumping ship to independents

Dec 9, 2022, 1:00 PM
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)...
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

PHOENIX – Two Arizona political strategists said U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s switch from the Democratic Party to independent status took courage but only time will tell whether it hurts her career.

Sinema said Friday she was resigning from the Democrats to register as an independent. The first-term senator said registering as an independent was a reflection of herself and Arizona.

“She’s the senior senator of the Democratic Party in Arizona and she’s going to trade that away on principle. It’s a political earthquake … it is a Richter scale 10,” Republican Stan Barnes of Phoenix-based Copper State Consulting told KTAR News 92.3 Fm’s Arizona’s Morning News after the announcement.

“It’s got to be the boldest single move I’ve seen by an Arizona politician ”

“But she’s made it more difficult for herself.”

Sinema said she doesn’t plan to caucus with Republicans and expects to maintain her committee assignments through the Democratic majority, according to a Senate Democratic aide.

“Wow. This takes a lot of courage on her part,” said Chuck Coughlin, a Republican who runs the Phoenix consulting group HighGround Inc.

He told Arizona’s Morning News in a separate interview the move wasn’t a complete surprise to him.

Coughlin said he began wondering last year whether “the problems the Democrats were causing her in the Democratic Party would prompt her to look at her options.”

Sinema made waves within the party earlier this year when she rejected wishes to vote for filibuster reforms to overcome Republican opposition to a voting rights bill.

She was censured by the state Democratic Party shortly after that.

“It would be so much safer for Sinema to ride the horse she’s on. Instead, she’s going to be, what amounts to in Arizona, the first person of prominence and relevance to step into that middle,” Barnes said.

“She may get the fantastic reward, politically, for doing it. But I think her [reelection] chances went down.”

Sinema has not said whether she’ll run again. Her term ends in January 2025.

Democrats will still have a narrow 51-49 edge in January after Sen. Raphael Warnock won Georgia’s runoff election on Tuesday.

“Let’s say Warnock would have lost: would she have done this? It would have lost the Democratic majority – that would have cost her a lot,” Coughlin said.

“But with Warnock’s win in Georgia it gives her some room to breathe, it allows her to move into that space, where she’s very comfortable, being an independent voice for Arizona and not being held hostage by either party.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

(Facebook Photo/Bike Easy)...

Chandler wants residents to have their say on protected bike lanes

An East Valley city is asking for feedback through on online survey regarding the potential installation of protected bicycle lanes.
22 hours ago
(Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)...
Associated Press

Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs vetoes bill to ban tents in public places

Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs vetoed a bill Thursday that would have prohibited people from setting up tents or tarps in public areas.
22 hours ago
This undated image provided by Raman and Puja Kalra shows their Dairy Queen franchise restaurant in...
Associated Press

Arizona Dairy Queen on the hunt for missing red spoon statue

The owners of a Dairy Queen in Phoenix remain perplexed as to why someone would steal the giant red spoon that adorned their restaurant.
22 hours ago
(Facebook Photo/City of Phoenix, AZ USA)...

Population growth in Maricopa County was largest in nation for second consecutive year

For the second consecutive year, more people have been moving to Maricopa County than any other county in the nation.
22 hours ago
(AP Photo/Reba Saldanha, File)...

Arizona politicians react to indictment of former President Donald Trump

Arizona politicians were quick to speak on the unprecedented news of Donald Trump's indictment, with reactions split along party lines.
22 hours ago
(Google Maps Screenshot)...
Taylor Kinnerup

Arizona’s News Roundup: Phoenix business owners win homelessness suit, Hobbs’ staffer resigns

KTAR’s Arizona’s News Roundup this week catches you up on homeless encampment updates, a change in the governor's office and more.
22 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Desert Institute for Spine Care in Arizona Photo)...
Desert Institute for Spine Care in Arizona

5 common causes for chronic neck pain

Neck pain can debilitate one’s daily routine, yet 80% of people experience it in their lives and 20%-50% deal with it annually.
Fiesta Bowl Foundation

Celebrate 50 years of Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade magic!

Since its first production in the early 1970s, the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe has been a staple of Valley traditions, bringing family fun and excitement to downtown Phoenix.
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Prep the plumbing in your home just in time for the holidays

With the holidays approaching, it's important to know when your home is in need of heating and plumbing updates before more guests start to come around.
‘Political earthquake’: Arizona experts weigh in on Sen. Sinema jumping ship to independents