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(L-R) U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), and Susan Collins (R-Maine) speak to reporters as they arrive at the U.S. Capitol after a meeting with President Joe Biden at the White House on June 24, 2021. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

If Sinema Won't Stand With Arizona Democrats, We Will Vote Her Out

A recent poll showed that if Sinema continues to protect the filibuster and block the Democratic agenda, 66% of likely Democratic primary voters would back a challenger who will help end the filibuster.

Dan O'Neal

By an overwhelming 81% vote, the Arizona Democratic Party (ADP) passed a resolution on September 25th pledging a vote of NO CONFIDENCE in Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema if she fails to vote to reform the filibuster or doesn't support President Biden's "Build Back Better" reconciliation bill.

Activists in Arizona will continue to pressure Senator Sinema and others who are now blocking President Biden's "Build Back Better" plan, a Path to Citizenship for Dreamers, and must-needed federal voting rights legislation.

Some 676 delegates to the Arizona Democratic State Committee, the ADP's leading policy-making body, debated on its zoom call Saturday how to handle their wayward Senator, with an overwhelming agreement to these conditions:

* declare and reaffirm support for the immediate elimination of the "Jim Crow relic" known as the Senate Filibuster;

* closely watch Senator Sinema's votes in the coming weeks and if Senator Sinema does not vote in favor of filibuster reform to change Senate rules in order to allow the passage of voting rights legislation;

* and if Senator Sinema votes against, delays, disrupts, or votes to gut the reconciliation package of its necessary funding, then the Arizona Democratic Party State Committee will go officially on record and will give Senate Sinema a vote of NO CONFIDENCE;

* and in addition, the resolution gives the ADP Chair and the Executive Board the authority and power, if she does not do the right thing, to issue a formal letter of CENSURE to Senator Sinema with the clear understanding she could potentially lose the support of the ADP in 2024.

The ADP resolution is testimony to the work of activists in the state chapters of  Progressive Democrats of America, and other progressives working within the Party structure. Several are members of the ADP Executive Board. Much of the work writing, and promoting the resolution statewide was done through a new broad-based  Arizona Coalition to End the Filibuster.

Grassroots Organizing In Arizona

The Arizona Coalition to End the Filibuster has been organizing since the beginning of this year to demand that Senators Sinema and Kelly work to end the Jim Crow filibuster. The coalition came together in mid-January. For eight months activists in the coalition have been meeting, planning, and holding protests at Senator Sinema's office, aimed at putting pressure on our Senators to end the Filibuster. 

The growing coalition is made up of dozens of social justice and labor organizations, including LUCHA, Sunrise Movement Tempe, Poder Latinx, Progress Arizona, Progressive Democrats of America, Arizona AFL-CIO, Communication Workers of America, Arizona Faith Network, Arizona Dream Act Coalition, Arizona Working Families Party, Democracy Initiative, Our Revolution, Arizona Students Association, Jobs with Justice, Fuerte AZ, Mi Familia Vota,  For All, Sierra Club, African American Christian Clergy Coalition, Our Voice Our Vote, Arizona NAACP, the African American Leadership Legislative Council (AALLC), Uri L'Tzedek, Arizona Jews for Justice, Arizona Medicare for All Coalition, Common Defense, Arizona VetsForward, Indivisible AZ. 

On May 20th, the coalition held its first big public event, an End The Filibuster rally in downtown Phoenix. Some 300 people, from multiple community groups and labor organizations, attended. All the while polling was showing Arizona Democrats and independents overwhelmingly support filibuster reform, and our Senator was doubling down on her support for the" Jim Crow" relic as President Obama called it, and refusing to even engage in dialogue with activists groups.

Two days later the Arizona Democratic Party State Committee on May 22nd  passed a resolution with 91% support from some 750 delegates, putting the Arizona Party on record in favor of ending the filibuster. Though out the spring and summer protests at her office on Camelback Road in Phoenix continued, as did thousands of calls into her office from immigrant rights groups and local labor union members. Labor leaders in Arizona put the ADP and politicians like Sinema on notice that traditional funding for Democratic candidates who did not support the PRO ACT were on hold indefinitely.

Civil Rights Leaders Arrested At Phoenix Sinema's Office

Lead by the Arizona Coalition to End the Filibuster, on June 22nd, 10 activists were arrested in a planned sit-in at her Phoenix office. Still, only silence from Sinema. So, again on July 26th Arizonans, this time joined by national civil rights and social justice leaders Rev. Jesse Jackson,  Barbara Erinwright, and Rev. William J. Barber, staged a large rally and several hundred people marched to Sinema's office. This time 39 activists were arrested in nonviolent civil disobedience sit-ins in front of her office door.

Arizonans of every walk of life have used nearly every tool of democratic participation to call on Senator Sinema to end the filibuster. We've called, emailed, signed petitions, and tweeted. Arizona veterans, small business owners, unions, and faith leaders have published open letters and held private meetings. 36 Democratic Arizona state legislators issued a public letter calling for an end to the Senate filibuster and in support of federal voting rights legislation.

On September 17, as part of actions around the country, end the filibuster advocates unveiled banners targeting Sinema across Arizona saying  "Sinema: Do Your Job." Activists unveiled the  20-foot banners on busy freeway overpasses in Flagstaff, Phoenix, and Tucson.

Following the banner unveilings, a delegation, including members of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition, Progress Arizona, and Progressive Democrats of America, showed up at Senator Sinema's office taping a poster to her office door. The poster was a large-size job evaluation showing the ways that she is failing the people of Arizona by keeping the filibuster in place. She has clearly received and earned her failing grades.

Voting Rights, Dreamers and the "Build Back Better" Agenda

All these efforts come after months of pressure from Arizonans calling on Sinema to end the filibuster.  Just recently, Senate leadership released a new voting rights bill backed by nearly every Senate Democrat, that bill cannot pass as long as the filibuster rules remain in place.

Senator Sinema's stubborn refusal to reconsider her extremist position in the face of such dire need and sustained demand from her constituents is simply unacceptable. We are now at a very critical period as the Senate takes up both voting rights and the big once-in-a-lifetime Senate reconciliation package.

Activists in Arizona will continue to pressure Senator Sinema and others who are now blocking President Biden's "Build Back Better" plan, a Path to Citizenship for Dreamers, and must-needed federal voting rights legislation. A recent poll showed that if Sinema continues to protect the filibuster and block the Democratic agenda, 66% of likely Democratic primary voters would back a challenger who will help end the filibuster. Those numbers alone should scare her into changing course.

If she won't stand with her party and the voters who elected her, then we will in the coming weeks and months work to politically replace her with a Democrat who will.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
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Dan O'Neal

Dan O'Neal is a long-time Arizona peace justice activist, on the board of the Arizona Democratic Party Progressive  Council. He is the Arizona State coordinator for Progressive Democrats of America and a leader in the Arizona Coalition to End the Filibuster. Dan was the principal author of the recently passed ADP Resolution. He can be reached at dan@pdamerica.org  / or on Twitter @oldgringoaz

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