Senator Kyrsten Sinema has openly criticized key figures in the Democratic party, potentially challenging other politicians to take a stand against their own party to resonate with local voters.
Sinema, who shifted from being a Democrat to an independent last December, pointedly questioned Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries about the allocation of border funding to New York. Despite New York City grappling with a surge of migrants, it was granted $104 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)’s $800 million fund. In contrast, Arizona was allocated less than $24 million.
Sinema highlighted to Politico that Schumer and Jeffries were the first to announce the funding, not the White House or FEMA, raising questions about the funding distribution process.
Sinema’s stance against party leaders could significantly impact the Arizona Senate race, especially with immigration being a pivotal issue for voters. Her campaign will likely face competition from Democratic Representative Ruben Gallego and a yet-to-be-decided Republican candidate. Surveys indicate that Kari Lake, a former gubernatorial candidate, is a strong contender among the Republicans.
Political analyst Jay Townsend commented to Newsweek that Sinema’s critiques are hard to challenge since she advocates for Arizona. He added that similar criticism from Gallego wouldn’t be surprising either.
Chris Weber, from the University of Arizona’s School of Government and Public Policy, stated that while Gallego might be reluctant to criticize top Democrats during a high-profile election, Arizona’s electoral landscape might force his hand. Weber emphasized that Arizona’s political history leans towards critiquing national politics.
The majority of Arizona’s electorate are independents, with recent data showing that roughly 35% identify as such, followed by 34.4% Republicans and 30.02% Democrats.
Weber mentioned that Arizona’s Democrats often distance themselves from the national party, citing Senator Mark Kelly’s 2022 campaign as an instance where he voiced that his party failed to grasp the U.S.-Mexico border issue.
Gallego has voiced concerns about the funding for New York migrants, primarily focusing on FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for their “misguided” funding decisions. However, unlike Sinema, he hasn’t openly criticized fellow members of Congress. He has urged federal agencies to reevaluate funds designated for non-border regions. Gallego emphasized that diverting resources from areas like Yuma or Nogales is inequitable.
Democratic strategist Michael Gordon suggested that while Sinema’s anti-establishment position might appeal to her target audience, Gallego should tread carefully when critiquing prominent Democrats as he is aiming at a different voter segment.
Gordon summarized the situation by saying that any effective politician should champion for their state’s financial needs. Sinema’s strategy might attract her base, but Gallego needs to ensure a strong Democratic turnout for a victory.