Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — a swing voter in today’s 50-50 Senate — announced Friday that she has changed her party registration.
The Horn News reported Wednesday on the speculation about Sinema switching parties.
Sinema has become the latest congressional Democrat to leave the party. Former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, left in October.
No sitting senator has changed parties since 2009. Back then, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania changed his registration from Republican to Democrat. Plus, no sitting Senate Democrat has left the party since 2006, with Democrat Joe Libermann registering as an independent.
The chamber currently contains two other independents: Angus King of Maine and Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
However, these two independents attend the Democratic caucus’ weekly meetings, and Sinema plans to those out (She reportedly misses many of the meetings, anyway.)
Sinema has changed parties before. She began her career in the Green Party before joining the Democrats in 2004. During that time, Sinema was so left-wing that she protested against Liebermann.
Sine then, Sinema has moderated. The senator, who has modeled her political approach on the renegade style of the late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and has frustrated Democratic colleagues at times with her overtures to Republicans and opposition to Democratic priorities, said she was “declaring my independence from the broken partisan system in Washington.”
In a Friday interview with Politico, Sinema ruled out caucusing with Senate Republicans. Rather, she simply registered as an independent.
The first-term senator wrote in the Arizona Republic that she came into office pledging “to be independent and work with anyone to achieve lasting results. I committed I would not demonize people I disagreed with, engage in name-calling, or get distracted by political drama. I promised I would never bend to party pressure.”
She wrote that her approach is “rare in Washington and has upset partisans in both parties” but “has delivered lasting results for Arizona.”
Democrats were set to hold a 51-49 edge in the Senate come January after the victory Tuesday by Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock in Georgia’s runoff election.
Sinema has voted with Biden 90 percent of the time, according to an analysis by The Washington Post. She vowed to continue this pattern despite her change in party registration. “Nothing will change about my values or my behavior,” she said.
Like fellow Democrat Joe Manchin, Sinema has often served as the Senate’s decisive vote against a bill. For example, she withheld her support from the “Inflation Reduction Act” until Biden’s promise to remove a proposed tax on investors.
She is facing reelection in 2024 and is likely to be matched up with a well-funded primary challenger after angering much of the Democratic base by cutting — or blocking — progressive priorities such as a minimum wage increase or Biden’s big social spending initiatives. She has not said whether she plans to seek another term.
Sinema’s most prominent potential primary challenger is Rep. Ruben Gallego, who has a long history of feuding with Sinema.
“When politicians are more focused on denying the opposition party a victory than they are on improving Americans’ lives, the people who lose are everyday Americans,” Sinema wrote. “That’s why I have joined the growing numbers of Arizonans who reject party politics by declaring my independence from the broken partisan system in Washington. I registered as an Arizona independent.”
Sinema refused to say whether she’ll run for re-election in 2024. However, she ruled out a run for president.
The Horn editorial team and the Associated Press contributed to this article.