Will Kyrsten Sinema Really Run for Re-election as an Independent?

Photo Credit: The Hill

In November 2024, Arizona voters will decide if they want to re-elect Kyrsten Sinema to the US Senate, but this time as a registered Independent. She will likely have strong competition on both sides of her: while the Republican side is still wide open, Congressman Ruben Gallego is now in the poll position on the Democratic side. But will she even run, and what might it look like?

The first thing that jumps out is that as an independent, she would not need to run in a partisan primary. Her only election would be in November, and as such she would avoid a potentially costly primary battle.

However, there is a significant downside when it comes to her independent status, and that is the signature hurdle necessary to make the ballot. All candidates need to procure a certain amount of signatures from registered voters in order to get on the ballot. While partisan candidates need only collect signatures from a total of ½ of 1% of voters who could hypothetically vote for them, independent candidates need to obtain a total equaling or exceeding 3% of eligible voters who are not registered with a specific party. Considering that unaffiliated voters are the largest bloc in Arizona, that is not a small amount (approaching 50K signatures), but not an amount large enough that Sinema’s nearly unlimited funding can’t overcome.

The timeline for non-partisan candidates is the same as partisan candidates: those signatures must be submitted between 120-150 days before the primary election in early August. Ergo, she would need to submit those signatures between March 10th to April 8th of next year.

As Sinema likely keeps her options open for the time being, one thing to keep in mind is that regardless of funding, large amounts of signatures do not come immediately. Online signature gathering and a robust email list will help expedite that, but it’s also safe to say that most of her database is likely Democrats (who could not sign for her). Her resources will make that process much quicker than most, but she could not simply wake up on April 7th, decide to run, and have those signatures immediately appear. There is a degree of planning that is necessary.

While ballot access is a significant challenge for independent candidates, Senator Sinema could easily cross that bar. Then again, she may decide to instead take a 7-figure lobbying job and move into a life of unmitigated luxury and behind-the-scenes power. Would anyone blame her?