U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, elected as a Democrat but now an independent, is putting more and more distance between herself and her former party.
Sinema, the first out bisexual member of Congress, has been ridiculing Democrats when speaking to Republican lawmakers, lobbyists, and donors, Politico reports. She came up through the ranks of the Arizona legislature and then the U.S. House and Senate as a progressive but has become increasingly conservative as a senator.
In a meeting with Republican lobbyists this year, she said she stopped attending Democratic caucus luncheons because “old dudes are eating Jell-O, everyone is talking about how great they are. I don’t really need to be there for that. That’s an hour and a half twice a week that I can get back.”
It’s been reported that, while declaring herself an independent, she would still caucus with Senate Democrats. But at the lobbyist meeting, according to Politico, she said, “I’m not caucusing with the Democrats; I’m formally aligned with the Democrats for committee purposes. But apart from that I am not a part of the caucus.”
She also discussed getting a message from Ron Klain when he was President Joe Biden’s chief of staff, urging her to support a Biden judicial nominee. She said she didn’t return his call, and she raised her middle finger to show what she thinks of Klain.
In various venues, she has called House liberals “crazy people,” touted her good relationships with Republican senators, and spoken of Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Senate majority leader, “in harshly critical terms,” Politico notes. She has become cozy with the financial industry and advocated for its interests.
Sinema is up for reelection in 2024 but hasn’t said whether she’ll run. Ruben Gallego, currently a House member, has announced he’s seeking the Democratic nomination for her Senate seat. Republicans may have to choose between mainstream candidates and far-right ones affiliated with Donald Trump.
One of the latter, Kari Lake, who narrowly lost the Arizona gubernatorial race last year, would be the “odds-on favorite” if she decides to run for Senate, according to Politico. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is trying to recruit a less controversial candidate, while Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah said he “could very easily endorse Sen. Sinema” for reelection and campaign for her in Arizona.
But Sinema, who did not respond to Politico’s requests for comment, may decide not to run again and instead seek a job in the private sector. “Some of Sinema’s friends believe she’ll retire rather than risk losing,” the outlet reports. “To borrow the old line about the Clintons, after her taste of high finance on the fundraising circuit, she’s become like the Episcopal priest in the humble rectory who was surrounded by money in his pews and wanted a cut.”