PHOENIX— Almost every notable Arizona Democrat was present when Barack Obama visited Phoenix on Wednesday during the final days of the 2022 election, from Sen. Mark Kelly and governor candidate Katie Hobbs to well-known party leaders like Rep. Ruben Gallego.
Democrats in Arizona have been battling a hostile political environment for months in an effort to reelect Kelly, advance Hobbs against MAGA supporter Kari Lake for governor, and advance Adrian Fontes over far-right election sceptic Mark Finchem for secretary of state.
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It won’t be until 2024 when Arizona’s senior senator runs for office. The Democratic campaign operation in Arizona has a Sinema-sized gap, despite the fact that other Democratic senators in comparable circumstances have actively supported fellow Democrats in their home states.
Sinema has not openly campaigned with Kelly, Hobbs, Fontes, or any other Democratic candidate in the state for office during the 2022 election cycle. Sinema didn’t even officially declare her support for Hobbs until two weeks before the election, during the early voting period.
Sinema, who is known for her ability to raise money, gave Kelly the maximum permissible donation of $10,000 through her campaign and personal PAC. She also gave $60,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which has been a strong supporter of Kelly. However, Sinema has not made a contribution to the campaigns of Hobbs or Fontes, according to federal and state campaign finance records.
On the campaign trail, awkwardness frequently follows when Sinema is mentioned. Kelly stated that he and Sinema “work together very closely on a number of different topics, and I’ve been in regular contact with her about the race” in response to The Daily Beast’s inquiry at a recent campaign stop about whether Sinema would campaign alongside him.
When asked if he had asked her to run for office, Kelly dodged the inquiry.
I spend a lot of time flying over the state on a little plane, you know,” he remarked. In the previous five days, I visited Prescott, Show Low, Flagstaff, Tuba City, and Yuma. In order to meet with folks, I board a small aircraft and fly up there repeatedly.
Fox News Senate polls
Kelly 47% (+1 since Sept.)
Masters 45% (+5)
Johnson 48% (+0 since Sept.)
Barnes 45% (+1)
— Sahil Kapur (@sahilkapur) November 2, 2022
When Hobbs spoke to the media last week in Phoenix, the same inquiry was made. Hobbs stated, “Sen. Sinema claimed she did vote for me. “I’m pleased to have Sen. Sinema’s support,” he said. “We welcome any.”
Naturally, Sinema’s absence on the campaign road has drawn criticism in line with a well-established pattern for a person who, over the past two years, has appeared to seize every opportunity to rile up members of her own party.
She has damaged her relationships with many Democrats because of her efforts to sabotage the party’s agenda in a 50-50 Senate and reshape important bills to fit her vision, including the state party itself, which voted in January to formally censure Sinema after she opposed ending the Senate’s filibuster rule.
It’s not just what Sinema does, though, as is frequently the case. It’s also how she does it. For instance, some of her detractors have railed against the fact that during this election cycle, she made more public appearances with Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell than with the Democratic candidates in Arizona. She delivered a speech in September at McConnell’s foundation in Kentucky, which was replete with compliments from both parties.
Right before she is anticipated to begin a reelection campaign in 2024, Sinema’s standing among Arizona Democrats might take yet another hit if candidates like Kari Lake and Blake Masters triumph on election day.
The MAGA radical slate may perform well in Arizona on November 8 according to state lawmaker Chris Herstam, a former supporter of Sinema who has since turned outspokenly critical of her. Kyrsten Sinema, however, is unconcerned.
A representative for Sinema said the senator has raised money for Kelly through events, calls, and emails in response to inquiries for this article. The Daily Beast was directed to a statement made by Sinema to the Arizona Republic, in which she referred to Kelly as a “wonderful collaborator in our efforts protecting the border, strengthening Arizona’s water future, and lowering prices for everyday Arizona families.”
Sinema declared, “I was happy to support his campaign in 2020 and I’m laser focused on keeping him in the Senate.
“Arizonans vote for the candidate they believe best reflects Arizona values, and that’s why I voted for Katie Hobbs for Governor,” Sinema said in reference to Hobbs.
Nothing suggests Sinema is denying Democratic pleas to campaign for them, but nothing also suggests that she is under any pressure to play a more prominent role.Kelly and Hobbs, though, are not strangers.
Kelly, a senatorial colleague of hers, has long been prominent in Arizona politics due to his marriage to former congressman Gabby Giffords. Hobbs is a former social worker, just like Sinema. When Sinema was elected to the State Senate in 2011, he took over her State House district. Both candidates won unexpectedly across the state in the 2018 election.
Democrats who squirm at Sinema’s every move may find it hilarious that they are criticizing her for not being more visible on the campaign road. However, many believe their candidates need all the support they can get in a race that may be decided by a few thousand votes.
Arizona political specialists are convinced that Sinema could make a significant contribution. If asked whether Democratic candidates should accept her assistance, Chuck Coughlin, a Republican pollster in Phoenix, responded, “Fuck yeah, absolutely.”
He claimed that Sinema might help Kelly and Hobbs’ appeals to crucial independent and right-leaning voters since she has a higher approval rating among Republicans than among Democrats.
Sinema is likely the most electorally successful Arizona Democrat in the past 20 years, despite the fact that her most recent political decisions have confounded strategists from Phoenix to Washington. Sinema won the first of three fiercely contested elections in 2012 for Arizona’s most vulnerable U.S. House district. She won by around 2.5 points over Republican Martha McSally in 2018, becoming the first Democrat to win a statewide election since 2006.
Sinema ran a “aggressively centrist” campaign in 2018, but she showed early reluctance to stand up for fellow Arizona Democrats. She was the only significant Democratic contender who did not support the party’s choice for governor, David Garcia, raising the ire of leftist critics before to his crushing defeat to Gov. Doug Ducey. For what it’s worth, Garcia didn’t support Sinema.
Sinema’s support among Democratic voters has decreased as a result of her opposition to certain Democratic priorities during the last two years, but her popularity with Republicans has increased.
Last Monday, a middle-aged man named Brian who does scientific sales work but wouldn’t provide his last name turned up at a Scottsdale polling station to cast his vote for Kelly’s rival, Masters. But he admitted to The Daily Beast that in 2024, he would probably support Sinema.
I wrote something for @AzCapitolTimes. You all better read it and enjoy it or I’m never doing this again. https://t.co/m8Eu4ccpX4
— Wayne Schutsky (@WayneSchutsky) November 4, 2022
As his opponent campaigned without her, not even Masters has been immune to the GOP’s adoration for Sinema. He praised Sinema as a “very talented politician” in a statement to the Daily Mail on Wednesday. She’s decent. She works hard. She is very actively involved.
Arizona’s politics may be distinct from those in other competitive states, but Sinema’s absence is all the more noticeable given the busy campaign schedules of her fellow Senate Democrats.
Sen. Bob Casey has served as a crucial advocate for Senate nominee John Fetterman in Pennsylvania, which is likely to be the most competitive state in the 2022 race. Sen. Tammy Baldwin campaigned alongside Senate nominee Mandela Barnes in the highly contested state of Wisconsin, where she spoke at an Obama rally in Milwaukee supporting Democratic candidates.
Sen. Jon Ossoff and Sen. Raphael Warnock are co-campaigning once again in Georgia, while Sen. Jeanne Shaheen is spending the last few days of her campaign in New Hampshire with Sen. Maggie Hassan.
One piece of information in particular is telling: Casey has donated $10,000 more to the Arizona Democratic Party this year than Sinema has. The party that censured Sinema in January has received zero donations from her.
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It’s unlikely that Sinema’s course will change now that early voting has begun and there are only a few days until election day, especially after she skipped the Wednesday event with Obama.
However, some claim that Sinema’s involvement may not have only helped Democrats; it may have also benefited Sinema personally. A prospective competitor to Sinema in the 2024 primary, Gallego, one of the speakers at the Obama rally, has already openly criticised her for her lack of campaign activity.
It would be beneficial for Sinema to campaign alongside other Democrats, according to GOP pollster Coughlin, since it would “ameliorate her toxicity with the Democrats.”
He stated, “If I can show we can win with this kind of ticket, then they are less likely to be hostile toward me,” paraphrasing what she would be thinking.
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