As reported in The New York Times on Friday morning, Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, whose centrist approach pitted her against parts of President Biden’s agenda and made her the target of Democratic activists, has announced in a series of interviews and in an essay in The Arizona Republic that she is leaving the Democratic Party and registering as an independent.
Ms. Sinema has not said whether she would caucus with the Democrats, as do two other independent senators, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine. The Democrats had claimed a 51-49 advantage in the Senate this week when Raphael Warnock prevailed in a runoff election in Georgia.
Writing in The Arizona Republic, she said that she had “never fit perfectly in either national party” and that the “loudest, most extreme voices continue to drive each party toward the fringes.”
“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,” she 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.”
Her position as a centrist Democrat made her a key figure in the Senate. She was the last remaining holdout on a climate and tax deal, and her refusal to abandon the filibuster set back the party’s hopes to enact voting rights protections. Arizona Democrats symbolically censured her after her filibuster vote. At this point, it is an open question as to how this decision may affect the precarious balance of power in the Senate.