WASHINGTON, DC — As national Democrats, including President Joe Biden, grapple with the positions of Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema in an evenly divided Senate, progressives are launching campaigns at home to pressure the state’s senior senator, leaving a primary challenger in 2024 is threatened.
Arizona is far from being a blue-state, so Sinema’s opposition towards parts of Biden’s agenda is inconsistent with her campaign promise to be an independent, moderate voice that represents the often eccentric political leanings in Arizona.
Former Green Party activist who criticised a presidential candidate for trying too gain Republican support is now a moderate thorn on the president’s side.
Progressives expressed their frustration with Sinema who they claim is working against a moderate president, making it harder to set democratic priorities. Meanwhile, activists are exerting pressure on Sinema through protests and crowdfunding campaigns. They even followed her to a bathroom in Arizona last week, which was widely condemned by leaders from both sides.
Sinema was also confronted by protestors at the airport and was asked why she opposes Biden’s agenda for the Senate. One DACA recipient approached Sinema on her flight. She asked her to commit to supporting a path to citizenship. Protesters claim they are having difficulty getting meetings with Sinema so they are using the airwaves as well as larger fundraising campaigns to increase the pressure.
Common Defense, a progressive veteran-run organization, has posted a seven-figure advertisement buy to target Sinema, and press her to follow Biden’s “Build back Better” agenda.
“I feel like she’s failing us when her campaign was about lowering prescription drug prices, which is something that the Build Back Better Act is doing. She’s stood up for it.” Naveed Shah, Common Defense, stated that there was no good reason to do so.
Sinema’s resistance did not begin with infrastructure. Sinema’s stances after Biden became president have led to at least two new committees of political action. These were established with the purpose of funding primary challengers in the event Sinema does not change his mind regarding the filibuster.
Kai Newkirk, a progressive activist who won Sinema her 2018 election, is part the pressure on Sinema to support Biden’s agenda in Senate. This was done by one of the new politic action committees. It sends a clear message that Biden’s agenda cannot be passed without Democrats looking elsewhere for a candidate to the 2024 Senate. He and other activists began a conditional crowdsourcing campaign to create a Sinema’s primary challenger, who raised $100,000 in a week.
Arizona Democrats recently threatened a vote to no confidence if Sinema did not allow filibuster reforms to pass that would enable Biden to get his agenda through. They call this the greatest blocker to Democratic success.
“We are at a point where we need federal action and nothing is happening there,” Senator Martín Quezada told a progressive news channel. “I expected to see the Kyrsten Sinema that I had seen in Congress. I was always impressed by her intelligence, her aggressiveness and her commitment to values that we supported. This is what I had hoped for, but she hasn’t. She is exactly the opposite of what we had hoped for.”
Sinema’s dissatisfaction is partly due to her inability to clearly define what she wants. In the 2000s, she ran as an independent for the state house and pushed for progressive agendas. She continued to move into downtown as her political career progressed and she gained more constituents. She is now in the Senate Majority for the first time. She has been to meetings with the White House, and along with West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, she blocks Biden’s infrastructure package.
Even her colleagues aren’t sure what Manchin and she are actually fishing for.
Dick Durbin, Illinois Senate Majority Whip, stated last week that “now is the time” and suggested to both senators, “make your mark and seal it.” What do you want? What is your ultimate goal. It is time to stop talking about it and start talking directly to it.
Some Democrats claim that Kelly’s actions, if he gets reelected next year, could be detrimental to freshman Senator Mark Kelly.