Do They Not Want the Seat? Dems Talk About Primarying Pro-Filibuster Sinema, But Here's Why That'd Be Disastrous


Are the Democrats so upset over their failure to upend the filibuster and pass their voting overhaul that they’re willing to lose a Senate seat two years from now over it? We’re going to find out.

Last Thursday, Arizona Democrat Kyrsten Sinema put the exclamation point on the defeat of the Democrats’ attempt to invoke the nuclear option on the legislation, speaking for almost 20 minutes on floor of the Senate to announce that “while I continue to support these bills, I will not support separate actions that worsen the underlying disease of division infecting our country.”

“There is no need for me to restate my long-standing support for the 60-vote threshold to pass legislation. There’s no need for me to restate its role protecting our country from wild reversals in federal policy,” Sinema said, according to a transcript of her speech from KTAR-FM. “It is a view I have held during my years serving in both the U.S. House and the Senate, and it is the view I continue to hold.”

The two pieces of legislation in question — one which would have federalized federal voting standards, the other which would have reinstated a portion of the 1965 Civil Rights Act requiring certain states (all of which now lean Republican) to submit changes to voting standards to the federal government — were blatant Democrat power grabs, despite the fact the media constantly called them “voting rights” legislation. (At The Western Journal, we’ve been countering this false narrative and bringing readers the truth about the left’s attempt to federalize elections — and we’ll continue to do so. You can help us in our fight by subscribing.)

Sinema believed in voting reform, apparently, but she also didn’t think doing away with the filibuster was the way to go about it. And while she wasn’t the only one in her party who was unwilling to go along — and the Democrats needed all 50 members of their caucus to agree to invoke the nuclear option for the push to succeed — it didn’t take long for partisans to zero in on punishing her specifically via a primary challenge.

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Leftists frustrated with her already have both a plausible candidate to run and an infrastructure to help him win the nomination.

Democrat Rep. Ruben Gallego, a Marine veteran described as a “rising progressive star” by CNN in 2020, has long been a favorite for Democrats who want to bench the senior senator from Arizona when she runs for re-election in 2024 — and boy, was he omnipresent on cable news last week after Sinema’s speech.

Hilariously, he told CNN in one such appearance that “2024 is a long time from now. I’m focusing on 2022.” Which was why he was spending his time on CNN lambasting Kyrsten Sinema, of course.

Do you support the filibuster?

“I’ve known Sen. Sinema since we were both in our mid-20s and starting out in politics here in Arizona,” Gallego told CNN. “The only consistency about Sen. Sinema’s roles and positions is inconsistency.”

He added, “Right now, she is really disappointing a lot of Arizonans.”

He’s great at pithy lies about his opponent, it seems. (Abandoning the filibuster would actually have been inconsistency on Sinema’s part, given her long-standing support for it.) He’s great at attention-grabbing rhetoric from the floor of Congress, given he attracted headlines by attacking the senator by name in a House speech shortly after her Senate speech.

“Today the House showed where it stands. We won’t shrink from protecting our democracy and the voting rights of all Americans. It’s past time for the U.S. Senate and Sen. Sinema to do the same,” Gallego said, according to The Hill.

He’s also got the potential groundwork for an insurgent run being laid, given there are no less than three organizations which want Sinema out.

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The Primary Sinema Project has been fundraising since Sept. 30, with its two best fundraising days since launching on Thursday (when Sinema gave her speech) and Friday (the day after). The Primary Sinema Pledge has been crowdfunding money to go to a primary challenger if Sinema were to vote against changing the filibuster. And, according to Business Insider, there’s one organization that’s pretty upfront about who they want to chase her out of office: Run, Ruben, Run.

Gallego even has a progressive senator calling for a primary against Sinema. According to the Associated Press, independent socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont told reporters Tuesday “there is a very good chance” both Sens. Sinema and Joe Manchin of West Virginia would face challengers. When asked if he’d support those challengers, Sanders replied, “Well, yeah.”

All of this is very good — except these progressives might as well be voting for a Republican instead.

Let’s recap: When she was elected in 2018, Sinema was the first Democratic senator elected in Arizona since 1988 and only the second since 1962. Mark Kelly, another Democrat, was elected in 2020.

This was seen as an augury by Democrats that the state was turning blue. The hitch, however, was that both Kelly and Sinema ran as moderates, both ran against Republican Martha McSally in close elections and both were elected in years where the primary issue was Donald J. Trump — a polarizing candidate the Democrats were able to organize effectively against in some races.

Gallego is a progressive who hails from a very blue Phoenix district, as Business Insider noted. This isn’t the profile of someone who can successfully carry a state that’s purple at best — and which leans red historically.

But what about his backstory — both his ethnicity and his service to his country?

“There’s not any other progressive in the state of Arizona who could get Republicans and moderates to vote for him in great numbers,” said Chuck Rocha, the Democratic strategist who started Run, Ruben, Run. “No one else could do that except a Latino combat veteran who has served his country in uniform.”

No polling has been done on whether or not having once worn a uniform makes one more electable in Arizona, although it’s worth noting McSally was also a veteran and lost twice. It’s unlikely to soften Gallego’s progressive positions, however — merely throw them into relief.

As for his race, perhaps identity politics can get him over the line. Perhaps not, though, when you consider Latinos are trending more conservative.

In a December Wall Street Journal poll, Hispanic voters said they were just as likely to cast their ballot for a Republican congressional candidate as a Democratic one — 37 percent each, with 22 percent undecided. Meanwhile, another December survey by the Marist Poll found President Joe Biden was more unpopular among Latino voters than white ones.

Still want to bank on identity politics carrying the day in a state where a candidate’s positions couldn’t otherwise pass muster?

That’s the ultimate problem regarding the calls to primary Kyrsten Sinema: Democrats almost certainly won’t get a progressive out of the deal, they’ll get a Republican. Sinema has bucked the Democratic Party when the Democratic Party’s policies wouldn’t fly in Arizona. She’s still voted for trillions in spending that McSally wouldn’t have. She’s confirmed justices McSally wouldn’t have. She’s given the president’s party a majority they otherwise wouldn’t have — because she’s electable.

If the progressive wing wants to take the nuclear-option loss out on Sinema, go right ahead: Primary her. Soak up tons of donor money from ActBlue. Drag Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and AOC out west for rallies. They can have a killer party on primary night.

And then, starting in November, they’ll have another six years to try and find an electable Arizonan progressive to upend whoever beats Ruben Gallego.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture