Sen. Krysten Sinema of Arizona announced on Friday that she is leaving the Democratic Party and changing her registration to independent four years after being elected, a move that was met with a lot of eyerolls on social media.
The announcement comes just days after Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock defeated Republican candidate Herschel Walker in the Georgia runoff midterm election, giving Democrats a 51–49 majority in the Senate. Even with Sinema’s move, Democrats will still maintain control of the Senate, albeit very narrowly. (Two other independents, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine, caucus with Democrats.)
Sinema, who is the first openly bisexual person elected to the Senate, announced the news in a video posted on Twitter, saying that she was fighting the “broken partisan system” and that registering as an independent is a reflection of who she has always been, as well as “a reflection of who Arizona is.”
In an op-ed published in the Arizona Republic on Friday, Sinema said that she had “joined the growing numbers of Arizonans who reject party politics by declaring [her] independence from the broken partisan system in Washington.”
Sinema said that her decision “makes a lot of sense” in an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, adding that she has “never fit neatly into any party box.”
“I’ve never really tried,” she said. “I don’t want to.”
Sinema added that while she is no longer registered as a Democrat, she expects to keep her committee assignments (she currently serves on three Senate committees and chairs two subcommittees). She also told Politico that she will not caucus with Republicans, although she didn’t say whether she would with Democrats.
The senator is facing reelection in 2024, but in her announcement, she did not address whether she would run again.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota told CNN that she didn’t believe Sinema’s move would affect much in the Senate.
“Sinema has always had an independent streak. I don’t think I’m telling you anything that’s a surprise,” Klobuchar said. “I don’t believe this is going to shake things up quite like everyone thinks.”
Throughout the last four years, Sinema has voted with Republicans when it comes to taxes and sided with Democrats on issues like LGBTQ rights, infrastructure, and gun control.
Earlier this year, Sinema was censured by the Arizona Democratic Party after she refused to vote alongside Democrats to change the Senate’s filibuster rules in order to pass voting rights legislation.
Last year, she also angered Democrats by voting against a $15 federal minimum wage bill that was introduced as an add-on to the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill.
After Sinema’s announcement on Friday, people posted on social media their reactions to the news on social media, and it’s safe to say that most weren’t shocked.