‘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

Smoke is visible at the scene of a deadly crash in Mesa, Arizona, in this image from an Arizona Dep...

2 dead after passenger van hits wall, bursts into flames on East Valley freeway ramp

Two people were killed in a fiery crash on an East Valley freeway exit ramp on Sunday night, authorities said.

26 minutes ago

Jesus Castillo-Ordonez mugshot...

Man accused in west Phoenix murder; allegedly linked to November armed robbery

A man was arrested in connection to a murder and armed robbery in west Phoenix, authorities said.

1 hour ago

The holidays are here and with that can come a certain level of stress. A Valley health expert has ...

Balin Overstolz McNair

Valley health expert gives tips on reducing holiday stress

The holidays are here and with that can come a certain level of stress. A Valley health expert has tips to take pressure off yourself and loved ones.

3 hours ago

Michael Crow...

Damon Allred

ASU president Michael Crow ‘optimistic’ about COVID-related learning loss recovery

With Arizona's education still suffering from learning loss, ASU president Michael Crow says they "are moving in (the right) direction."

3 hours ago

The 10-story building in downtown Phoenix that houses the Arizona Republic and KPNX-TV has changed ...

Audrey Jensen/Phoenix Business Journal

Accounting firm buys Arizona Republic office building in downtown Phoenix

Phoenix-based ViaWest Group has sold the downtown Phoenix office tower that houses The Arizona Republic and KPNX-TV 12News.

3 hours ago

Cactus Park Precinct...

Weekend wrap-up: Here are the biggest Arizona stories from Dec. 8-10

Here are some of the biggest stories that headlined the Arizona news cycle over the weekend from Dec. 8-10.

11 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Follow @iamdamonallred...

Avoid a potential emergency and get your home’s heating and furnace safety checked

With the weather getting colder throughout the Valley, the best time to make sure your heating is all up to date is now. 

Follow @KTAR923...

The 2023 Diamondbacks are a good example to count on the underdog

The Arizona Diamondbacks made the World Series as a surprise. That they made the playoffs at all, got past the Milwaukee Brewers in the NL Wild Card round, swept the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS and won two road games in Philadelphia to close out a full seven-game NLCS went against every expectation. Now, […]


Midwestern University

Midwestern University: innovating Arizona health care education

Midwestern University’s Glendale Campus near Loop 101 and 59th Avenue is an established leader in health care education and one of Arizona’s largest and most valuable health care resources.

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