Arizona senator Kyrsten Sinema has changed her party affiliation. Formerly a member of the Arizona Democratic party, Sinema has announced that she feels her viewpoints are better represented by the bi-partisan Independent Party. This switch comes following a recent disconnect between Sinema and the Democratic Party on multiple issues, primarily related to the government spending budget. Sinema has been critiqued by Democrats and those on the left for opposing an end to the filibuster and voting against social spending packages.
In an interview with CNN, Sinema said “Removing myself from the partisan structure – not only is it true to who I am and how I operate, I also think it’ll provide a place of belonging for many folks across the state and the country, who also are tired of the partisanship.”
There have been a number of politicians shifting to third-party platforms over the past few years. With increasing criticisms of the two-party system, more elected officials are aiming to distance themselves from party politics. Sinema has expressed that this change of title doesn’t change her beliefs and that she’ll stay to true to the platform that her constituents elected her on.
In her announcement posted on social media, Sinema said, “Over the past four years, I’ve worked proudly with other Senators in both parties and forged consensus on successful laws helping everyday Arizonans build better lives for themselves and their families. Becoming an Independent won’t change my work in the Senate; my service to Arizona remains the same.”
However, many voters are displeased that she’s announcing this change in the middle of her current term. In the replies to her announcement post on Twitter, constituents were voicing their discontent with the switch. One of the complaints echoed by several users was that Arizonians had voted for Sinema while she was a member of the Democratic party, not an Independent. Others have voiced concerns that Sinema has made this change to work more with lobbyists.
On the other side of the spectrum, Independent voters and politicians have been celebrating this change. Andrew Yang, former Democratic presidential candidate and founder of the Forward Party tweeted “In a polarized country, you only need a handful of people in the middle to change everything.”
While Arizona is known for being a swing state, party lines have been even more blurred in the past election cycle. The 2022 midterm election saw more Democratic victories in Arizona, but there was still a strong pull from Republican voters leading to very close races within the state. This unique blend of red and blue voting areas has led to Arizona being called a “purple state”. Voters are now considering what having an Independent senator will mean for politics in the state.
Democrat Raphael Warnock won the Georgia runoff, giving the Senate a 51-50 split with Democrats holding the majority. Due to this Sinema’s conversion to the Independent party has caused a stir, since it now seems more likely for her to side with Republicans without being seen as betraying her party members.