Kyrsten Sinema defection sets up “fractured field” that could lead to “Senator Kari Lake”: Analysis

Sinema's move could split the Democratic vote in 2024 and help elect a Republican

Published December 12, 2022 11:30AM (EST)

Republican nominee for Arizona governor Kari Lake at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Hilton Anatole on August 06, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)
Republican nominee for Arizona governor Kari Lake at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Hilton Anatole on August 06, 2022 in Dallas, Texas. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona made a bombshell announcement on Friday morning, December 9: She is leaving the Democratic Party and registering as an independent. The centrist ex-Democrat told Politico that she will not be caucusing with Republicans in the U.S. Senate.

Never Trump conservative Charlie Sykes weighs in on Sinema's departure from the Democratic Party in a December 9 Morning Shots column for The Bulwark, including the possible implications when she is up for reelection in 2024.

During her interview with Politico, Sinema would not say whether or not she plans to seek reelection in 2024 and run as an independent. But if she does run, one thing Sinema won't be facing is a Democratic primary challenge from liberal Rep. Ruben Gallego — as she is no longer a Democrat and wouldn't be running as a Democrat.

If Gallego runs for the Senate in 2024, he would have a good shot at receiving the nomination; he is popular among Arizona's more liberal Democrats. But some pundits have pointed out that if Sinema runs as an independent, other Democrats might be nervous about the possibility of dividing the non-Republican vote.

Sykes comments, "If she runs as an indy, that raises the possibly of a fractured field that would divide Democratic and independent voters, and could lead to all sorts of bizarre possibilities. Senator Kari Lake, anybody?"

Sinema has plenty of critics on the liberal/progressive side of the Democratic Party — from Gallego to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York City — and she isn't nearly far enough to the right for the MAGA crowd. But in Arizona, Sinema has her share of defenders among independents, Blue Dog Democrats, Never Trump conservatives and McCain Republicans. In fact, she has been on very friendly terms with members of the McCain family, including GOP activist Meghan McCain (the late Sen. John McCain's daughter).

Sykes, himself a Never Trumper, has been among Sinema's defenders on the right. And Sykes argues, in his column, that progressive Democrats didn't help their cause by "berating" her so vehemently.

"This feels like a flashback," Sykes writes. "Kyrsten Sinema is blowing everyone's mind by doing what everyone feared/hoped a few years ago. Via Axios: 'Kyrsten Sinema goes independent, scrambles Senate.' So maybe censuring her, and harassing, berating, and chasing her into bathrooms wasn't a great idea after all? But wait, before we get to the I-told-you-so part of today's Morning Shots, which is coming, we have to slow the roll a bit on the hair-on-fire punditry."

Sykes continues, "Sinema's decision to leave the Democratic Party and register as an independent is a big deal, but it's not immediately clear how big it actually is, because the one overriding question is: Will this actually change the balance of power in the Senate? Does it mean that a 51-49 majority will become a 50-49-1 majority? As of this morning, it seems that she will continue to caucus with the Democrats, along with the two other independents, Bernie Sanders and Angus King."

By Alex Henderson

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