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Kyrsten Sinema's intra-party troubles go from bad to worse

After Kyrsten Sinema undermined the Build Back Better agenda, she had a political problem. After the voting rights fight, the problem is quite a bit worse.


As recently as October 2021, Rep. Ruben Gallego was asked about the idea of challenging Sen. Kyrsten Sinema in a 2024 Democratic primary in Arizona. He rejected such talk out of hand.

A few weeks later, the congressman said something noticeably different. "For me, all I care about is what happens between now and 2022," Gallego said. "Those questions wait, wait."

As of late last week, the door that appeared closed in October suddenly appears wide open. CNN reported:

Rep. Ruben Gallego says his phone has been ringing a lot recently -- with many Democrats making a pitch to him: Run against Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema in 2024. Among those making the case, he claimed, are Sinema's own Senate Democratic colleagues.

The congressman said he's heard from "more than one" member of the Senate Democratic conference, encouraging him to launch a 2024 statewide bid. Gallego added, "To be honest, I have gotten a lot of encouragement from elected officials, from senators, from unions, from your traditional Democratic groups, big donors. Everything you can imagine under the sun."

The Arizonan went on to tell CNN that the last few weeks amounted to a "tipping point situation" among many in his party since there's been "a whole lot of frustration over a lot of things that have occurred in the past with Sen. Sinema, and this has kind of been the breaking point."

It's worth emphasizing for context that the incumbent senator's votes last week — Sinema supported the Democratic voting rights packages, but sided with Republicans when asked to create an exception to the filibuster rules — created a multifaceted problem, but for Sinema's intra-party critics, it was not an isolated incident.

On the contrary, the senator also played a role in derailing Democratic plans for the Build Back Better agenda. Indeed, Sinema refused to consider tax increases on the wealthy or big corporations, putting her to the right of West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin.

It's why Gallego's phone keeps ringing.

As Sinema's troubles mount, at least she can count on support from her allies in the Arizona Democratic Party, right? Wrong. NBC News reported over the weekend:

The Arizona Democratic Party executive board voted Saturday to censure Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, a rare rebuke from her own party that could complicate her political future.... Two sources in the meeting told NBC News the censure passed by a unanimous vote.

Well, there's still the senator's financial backers, right? Not so much. Politico reported last week:

A group of big-dollar donors who have spent millions electing Kyrsten Sinema and other Democratic senators threatened to sever all funding to her due to her opposition to changing Senate rules in order to pass voting rights legislation. In a letter to the Arizona lawmaker, which was first obtained by POLITICO, 70 Democratic donors — some of whom gave Sinema's 2018 campaign the maximum contribution allowed by law — said they would support a primary challenge to Sinema and demanded that she refund their contributions to her 2018 campaign if she didn't change her position.

To be sure, it's early 2022 and Sinema's re-election worries are more than two years away. As most political observers will tell you, a lot can happen in two years, and there's still time for the senator to turn around her fortunes.

But at this point, it appears that will require quite a bit of effort.

Perhaps Sinema could improve her standing by helping pass an ambitious Build Back Better package, sooner rather than later?