Although Sinema has not said whether he plans to seek another term in 2024, Democrats are raising the possibility that he will run as an independent, given his new political affiliation, and publicly face a Democratic nominee. ElectionIt would boost the Republican nominee in the race and divide the party in a messy way in a presidential election year.
Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) said he is gearing up for a run and will decide after the holidays whether he will seek the Democratic nomination for Senate. In a three-way scenario for Democrats, Schumer will face pressure to decide whether he and the national party apparatus will back a Democratic nominee, sit out the race, or support the winner of the Democratic primary.
It’s a delicate political question that spooked Senate Democrats on Monday. Schumer’s office did not respond to a request for comment on the issue. Outgoing chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), declined to say whether he believes Democrats should allow Cinema to run for re-election if he runs again. “Now I am going to continue working with Senator Cinema,” he said.
Other Senate Democrats across the country and the ideological continuum balked at a hypothetical scenario that could create a split in their party in Arizona. “I plan to stay out of Arizona politics,” said Chamber No. 2 Democratic Sen. Richard J. Durbin (No.) said. “I don’t focus on that,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said. “I’m focused on what we have to do in the next two weeks.”
“I’ll respond to that when she decides what she’s going to do,” Sen said. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said. Even Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) declined to answer whether he would support his fellow home state senator if he ran as an independent. “You’re making assumptions,” he said. “But I worked very closely with her for a long time.”
Schumer has yet to announce a new Democratic senatorial campaign committee chair, and that job has become even more difficult with the possibility of a three-way race in Arizona. The 2024 campaign cycle is already looking challenging for Democrats, with elections in red and purple states including West Virginia and Montana.
There, Senate Democratic incumbents Joe Manchin III and Jon Tester have yet to announce whether they will seek re-election. On Monday, Manchin told reporters that he has not ruled out switching parties himself, although he has no plans to do so now.
On Monday, Calico told The Washington Post that he would make his decision next year after speaking with his family over the holidays. “I’m very clear, I’m preparing for this,” he said. Gallego dismissed the idea that if he and Sinema ran it would split the Democratic vote and boost Republicans, saying “Republicans are having trouble keeping their base in Arizona.”
Rodell Mollineau, a Democratic strategist who once served as an aide to former Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), said if Cinema continues to vote with Democrats, it would set a precedent for appointing independent senators. Democrats endorsed Sens. Angus King (I-Maine) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in their races.
“I think the caucus will be with them if it’s framed as the current defense,” Molino said. But he pointed out that much about the situation is out of the hands of Schumer and the Democratic senatorial campaign team, including how the state party, donors and activists feel about race.
The Arizona Democratic Party declined to comment on whether it would endorse the Democratic candidate for the seat, pointing out that Cinema had criticized it after announcing his decision on Friday. “Senator Cinema may now be registered as an independent, but he has shown answers to corporations and billionaires, not Arizonans,” the party said in a statement. “He’s nothing if not consistently listening to Senator Sinema’s party record.”
In a video explaining his decision to leave the Democratic Party, Sinema said: “Filing as an independent and running with the title of independent is a reflection of who I’ve always been, and a reflection of who Arizona is. ” And, “We don’t stand in line to do what we’re told. Let’s do what is right for our state and country.
Joseph I., a former independent senator from Connecticut. Lieberman warned that if he runs in 2024, Sinema’s party switch won’t make it any easier for him to win. “It’s always difficult to compete as an independent in America,” he said.
But even Lieberman, a longtime Democrat who switched parties after losing the Democratic primary in 2006, refused to know how Schumer should handle a possible three-way race and whether Democrats should try to discourage a challenger like Gallego in the meantime.
“It’s a good thing for Senate Democrats and I think having Kirsten Sinema in the Senate as an independent senator is a good thing for our country,” he said. “But I’m not going to tell Chuck or the Democratic senatorial campaign team what they should or can do.”
Mariana Sotomayor and Teodoric Meyer contributed to this report.