Arizona Democrats, activists eye potential primary challenge to Sinema over Biden agenda, filibuster

Greg Nash

Democratic leaders and activists in Arizona are mounting pressure campaigns against Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) amid a standoff over President Joe Biden’s agenda, threatening to back a primary challenge to her unless she gets on board with key Democratic legislative priorities.

One such effort, Primary Sinema PAC, launched on Thursday, announcing that it would raise money to fund grassroots groups in Arizona that can “hold Sinema accountable” and “lay the foundation for a successful primary campaign when a strong challenger emerges.”

“We fought tirelessly to elect Kyrsten Sinema in 2018,” said Alex Gomez and Tomas Robles, the co-executive directors of Living United for Change in Arizona, one of the groups slated to receive funding from Primary Sinema PAC.

“Sinema has proven time and time again that she doesn’t share these values, so it’s time to organize and replace her with someone who does,” they said.

The political action committee is launching with the support of Way to Win, a network of donors that put up $110 million in the 2020 election, primarily in states like Arizona and Georgia. 

At the same time, another group of Arizona leaders and activists launched a campaign on the political fundraising website Crowdpac seeking $100,000 in pledges to boost a potential primary challenger to Sinema. 

The campaign, called “Either Sinema Votes to End the Filibuster OR We Fund a Primary Challenger,” says it will only collect on the pledges if Sinema doesn’t vote in favor of Biden’s agenda, as well as for filibuster reform. 

“Our message is clear: listen to your base, join your party, back Biden’s agenda, and help remove the filibuster as an obstacle to the urgent legislation Arizonans need,” Kai Newkirk, one of the campaign’s founders, said.

Sinema, who is up for reelection in 2024, has found herself in a standoff with fellow Democrats over her opposition to a massive $3.5 trillion social policy and climate change bill. Without the support of Sinema and another Democratic moderate, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), that measure cannot proceed. 

It’s not the first time that Sinema has drawn the ire of her fellow Democrats. For months, protesters have staged various demonstrations outside her office in Phoenix. Those protests have focused on everything from Sinema’s opposition to ending the filibuster to her vote against a bill that would have raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Nevertheless, Sinema has tightly embraced her reputation as a bipartisan legislator, a characteristic that helped propel her to victory in Arizona’s hotly contested 2018 Senate race. 

But many Democrats, emboldened by Biden’s victory and their Senate gains in 2020, have grown increasingly impatient with Sinema, whom they see as holding up legislation that the party has an obligation to approve. 

“The people of Arizona voted for Joe Biden and the Biden agenda,” Leah Hunt-Hendrix, the co-founder and vice president of Way to Win, said. “Sen. Sinema is opposing Biden’s popular policies, which are supported by broad, bipartisan majorities of Arizonans. If she continues to stand in the way, then we’re going to hold her accountable.”

Tags 2024 election Arizona politics Biden agenda Build Back Better Joe Biden Joe Manchin Kyrsten Sinema primary challenge

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