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Democrats try to figure out what to do next after Sinema vote to keep filibuster​

Kyrsten Sinema
Posted at 6:56 PM, Jan 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-20 20:56:06-05

PHOENIX — Threats to withhold campaign contributions, the possibility of a state Democratic Party rebuke, running a more progressive candidate in the 2024 Democratic Senate primary against her. It's all being discussed in the aftermath of Senator Kyrsten Sinema's vote Wednesday to keep the filibuster.

For Senator Sinema, it may be hard to find a friend among Arizona Democrats right now. But she does have admirers.

"I want to give Senator Sinema credit for standing up and protecting a Senate rule she believes in," Governor Doug Ducey said Thursday. "This idea of getting to a majority and building consensus and bipartisanship is something we've done on over 90% of the legislation we've been able to achieve at the state level. I'm glad she's trying to bring people together," the governor said.

Senator Sinema promised she would be an independent voice in the Senate when she ran in 2018. Democrats didn't think it would mean voting in favor of the filibuster at the expense of voting rights.

"Her approval rating among Democrats in Arizona is 8%," said Emily Kirkland, director of Progress Now Arizona. "So the level of frustration is there among voters, organizers, and volunteers. It's there among donors and different groups."

Kirkland is one of the women who signed a letter to Emily's List. Warning it to withhold future campaign contributions to Sinema if she supported the filibuster. Emily's List works to elect Democratic pro-choice women. It's been a significant contributor to Senator Sinema's campaigns.

"Sinema really underestimated the degree of frustration and backlash she would get in response to her decision to support the filibuster," Kirkland said.

Republican political consultant and lobbyist Stan Barnes disagrees. "I think we're witnessing an extraordinary event in terms of Arizona politics and Arizona representation in Washington D.C."

Stan Barnes says voters respond positively to people who act on principle. Sinema has voiced her support for the filibuster long before Wednesday's vote. "Senator Sinema is nothing but a sophisticated political person and I believe she's doing what's in her own interest for re-election," Barnes said.

Barnes does concede if Sinema faces any challenge to re-election, it will be in the primary. Something Kirkland believes is a real possibility.

"I think that many organizations are going to be thinking about that 2024 primary and thinking about, what does that look like. This is not something Arizonans are going to forget," Kirkland said.

Through her spokesperson, Sinema said, "During three terms in the U.S. House and now in the Senate, Kyrsten has always promised Arizonans she would be an independent voice for the state -- not for either political party. She's delivered for Arizonans and has always been honest about where she stands, and has said that different people of good faith can have honest disagreements about policy and strategy and that honest disagreements are normal."