Sinema won’t run for reelection

By Timothy Cama | 03/05/2024 04:37 PM EST

The Arizona independent often clashed with Democrats but also helped negotiate big wins for the party on climate and the environment.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.).

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) at the Capitol last month. Francis Chung/POLITICO

Arizona independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema won’t run for reelection, ending a tumultuous career marked by disagreements with both parties and a number of major legislative victories.

Sinema announced Tuesday that she’ll leave the Senate when her term ends in January 2025 instead of running in this year’s election, in which she would have faced both a Republican and Democratic opponent with significant resources.

“Through listening, understanding, and compromise we delivered tangible results that make America safer, stronger, and more prosperous,” Sinema said in a video announcing her decision and reflecting on her career.


“Yet, despite modernizing our infrastructure, ensuring clean water, delivering good jobs and safer communities, Americans still choose to retreat farther to their partisan corners,” she continued.

The senator said she still favors her uniting approach to politics, but has realized, “It’s not what America wants right now.”

Sinema, a former House member, exited the Democratic Party in 2022, though she still sits with the party on committees.

Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) entered the race for her seat shortly thereafter, promising to either challenge her in a primary if she runs as a Democrat or face her in the general election, raising the possibility of splitting the Democratic vote. Republican Kari Lake, a former gubernatorial candidate, is the leading Republican contender.

Recent polling has put Sinema in a distant third place in the contest, with Gallego and Lake nearly tied.

Sinema has clashed with Democrats on matters ranging from immigration to taxes, but has generally stuck with the party on climate change matters.

She helped negotiate the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act, even though she initially opposed the latter legislation before securing changes to tax provisions.

“Our historic infrastructure law gave Arizonans better broadband, new roads and bridges, cleaner air and water, and more job opportunities,” she said in the video, boasting that she “protected our country’s economic growth and competitiveness, and kept taxes low during a time of rampant inflation.”

She’s also been a leading voice on working to fight and prevent drought and wildfires that have affected the West in recent years, including getting drought provisions into the Inflation Reduction Act.

Sinema participated in bipartisan talks behind closed doors before the Inflation Reduction Act’s passage, in which senators tried to reach a deal on major energy legislation, but the talks did not bear fruit.

Long a proponent of cutting red tape, Sinema presented herself last spring as a dealmaker on permitting at the eleventh hour of negotiations on the debt ceiling. The accord ultimately favored Republican ideals of faster environmental review over Democrats’ transmission dreams.

Media reports at the time suggested her meddling killed Democrats’ grid plans, but an aide dismissed the notion, and instead said her “trusted relationships” with both sides facilitated common ground.

“As negotiations progressed and permitting reform continued to be discussed, Kyrsten helped bridge divides by identifying a good-faith foundation of energy reforms to be included in the debt ceiling deal,” the aide said at the time.

Following Sinema’s announcement, Gallego thanked her for her service and asked her to support his campaign.

“As we look ahead, Arizona is at a crossroads. Protecting abortion access, tackling housing affordability, securing our water supply, defending our democracy — all of this and more is on the line. That’s why Democrats, Independents, and Republicans alike are coming together and rejecting Kari Lake and her dangerous positions,” he said in a statement.

“I welcome all Arizonans, including Senator Sinema, to join me in that mission.”

Lake also thanked Sinema and wished her the best. “Senator Sinema had the courage to stand tall against the Far-Left in defense of the filibuster — despite the overwhelming pressure from the radicals in her party like Ruben Gallego who called on her to burn it all down,” Lake wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee, which has endorsed Lake for the election, said Sinema’s exit is good news for the Republican candidate.

“An open seat in Arizona creates a unique opportunity for Republicans to build a lasting Senate majority this November,” Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), the NRSC’s chair, said in a statement. “With recent polling showing Kyrsten Sinema pulling far more Republican voters than Democrat voters, her decision to retire improves Kari Lake’s opportunity to flip this seat.”

Reporter Kelsey Brugger contributed.