He and Sinema came into the House together in 2013, and then arrived in the Senate this year. They are close friends but couldn’t be more different. In fact, there are few like Sinema, the youngest Democrat at 43 who’s trying to figure out how to teach a spin class in the archaic Senate gym and boasts a sense of style that stands out in the tradition-bound Senate.
“I’m sort of a prude and she’s very exotic,” Cramer explained of their contrasting demeanor. “She was very hard on President Obama. So she’s quite feisty.”
There’s one Republican who’s still at arm’s length from Sinema: Martha McSally, whom Sinema defeated in 2018 but was then quickly appointed to fill the seat of the late Sen. John McCain. McSally said that the two “left it all out there on the field during the campaign” and Sinema said their staffs work together.
But after a race in which McSally accused Sinema of saying “It’s OK to commit treason,” and Sinema said McSally was spreading “smears,” there’s been no real attempt to put the past behind them.
Sinema isn’t out for revenge, either. She’s currently uncommitted in McSally’s campaign against Democrat Mark Kelly and has no plans to weigh in. She said her constituents “don’t care” about endorsements.
That neutral stance might buy her goodwill with her Republican colleagues, who are in the majority, after all. But it’s another reminder that her moderate stance doesn’t play well with all Democrats. The state Democratic Party put off a censure vote against her this year, but could revive it next year.
Rep. Raúl Grijalva, a progressive Democrat from Arizona, said Democrats were “a little thrown back” by her vote for Barr and warned her not to forget her state’s increasingly young, diverse voting population as she navigates the tricky politics of being from a swing state.
“She runs her own thing. It worked for her getting elected. In terms of effectiveness, we’ll see,” Grijalva said. “I would be more concerned about not reflecting where the demographics in Arizona are going. And they’re going Democratic and they’re going more progressive.”
Sinema is unmoved and might even see a censure as a badge of honor after McCain received one from the state GOP. Sinema won’t fight the effort and won’t change her positions. And if the censure resolution comes back up next year? “I don’t know. Also, don’t care.”
Sinema’s attempt to be above the political fray is central to her identity and her goal of building relationships with as many colleagues as possible.
Party leaders’ whip counts? Not her problem. Using her platform as senator to regularly promote her views to a national audience? Not interested. Skipping caucus lunches almost everyone else attends? She’ll be there when it matters for Arizona.
And missing votes on the EPA chief for an Ironman race?
“Ironman’s pretty badass. It’s awesome,” she responded when asked if she got any criticism for skipping town for New Zealand just two months into her term.
Less awesome, in her view, is the 2020 Democratic presidential primary. And with her party fixated on beating both McSally and Trump in Arizona, Sinema’s endorsement or even guidance for candidates about how to win there could be key.
But that’s not something she’s interested in, either. She even said it’s “premature” to commit to supporting her own party’s nominee at this point and indicated it could be months before she tunes into a debate.
“Eventually it would be wonderful to have a candidate that shares the values of the majority of Americans,” Sinema said cryptically. “Let’s winnow the field below like, 20 or something, and then maybe it gets easier. Like, when it’s enough for two basketball teams, it’s too much.”
Heather Caygle contributed to this report.