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Kyrsten Sinema

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) speaks on her phone outside a Senate Democrats luncheon in the U.S. Capitol on December 16, 2021. (Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc. via Getty Images)

To 'Hold Her Accountable for What She Did,' Primary Sinema Project Gets Into Gear

"Kyrsten Sinema is unfit to be a United States senator," the project asserts. "Just like the filibuster itself, we need to get rid of her if we want to save our democracy before it's too late."

Brett Wilkins

As outrage grows this week over U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema's obstruction of her own party's pro-democracy agenda, a movement to back a 2024 primary challenger to the right-wing Arizona Democrat is gaining momentum.

"At this point, Krusty the Clown could beat Sinema in a Democratic primary."

"It's official," the Primary Sinema Project said in a Friday fundraising email after Sinema joined Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and all 50 Republican senators to uphold the filibuster and kill Democratic voting rights legislation. "We're going to hold her accountable for what she did."

"Kyrsten Sinema is unfit to be a United States senator," the group added. "Just like the filibuster itself, we need to get rid of her if we want to save our democracy before it's too late."

While she's been praised by numerous Republicans, including Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and the GOP U.S. senators who lined up to shake her hand after she voted against modifying Senate filibuster rules—a move that would have stopped Republicans from blocking the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act—Sinema's obstructionism has infuriated many Democrats.

"Her approval rating among Democrats in Arizona is 8%," Emily Kirkland, director of the advocacy group Progress Now Arizona, told KNXV, citing a Civiqs poll conducted last week.

"So the level of frustration is there among voters, organizers, and volunteers," Kirkland added, including her own former staff and campaign volunteers.

In addition to losing the backing of progressive organizations including the reproductive rights groups EMILY's List and NARAL Pro-Choice America, Sinema's actions have fueled increasing support for Democratic primary challengers. Ninety-four percent of respondents to a Tuesday "flash poll" of members of the progressive activist group Indivisible said they favor primarying Sinema if she does not change course.

Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), widely viewed as a potential primary challenger to Sinema, says numerous Democrats have asked him to make a run for the Senate.

When asked who's asking him to run, Gallego coyly told CNN that "it wasn't Bernie, I'll tell you that," a reference to Sen. Bernie Sanders. The Vermont independent said earlier this week that Sinema and fellow right-wing Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) are imperiling "the future of American democracy," and that he is open to supporting primary challengers to run against the obstructionists.

"I have gotten a lot of encouragement from elected officials, from senators, from unions, from your traditional Democratic groups, big donors," said Gallego, a United States Marine Corps veteran who has served for seven years in the House. "Everything you can imagine under the sun."

Gallego said he believes Sinema is "vulnerable because nobody in the state has seen hide nor hair of her for the last three years."

"She hasn't had one town hall; everything she does is scripted," he added. "She says she refuses to negotiate in public, but we want to know who is she negotiating for? Is it for Arizonans? Or is it for the pharmaceutical companies or whatever other interests that she is more likely to have meetings with than... with the actual constituents?"

Arizona Republic columnist Laurie Roberts wrote Friday that "Gallego could beat Sinema in a primary. Probably, at this point, Krusty the Clown could beat Sinema in a Democratic primary," a reference to the deeply troubled but beloved children's celebrity in the long-running animated TV series The Simpsons.

"Gallego has a great story and he's a rising star on the left," she continued. "The question is, could he win the general election? Two years ago, no way. But two years from now? That's the calculation Democrats need to make."

Roberts asserts that "if Republicans regain their sanity in the next two years and put up a candidate with broad appeal, Gallego would have a hard time pulling out a win."

However, she adds that if the GOP continues its "bizarre obsession" with former President Donald Trump, and nominates a "Big Lie-spouting, pandemic-downplaying, misinformation-peddling" candidate—someone, she says, like state Republican Chair Kelli Ward—then "Gallego's fortunes would dramatically improve."

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