Democrats' civil war moves to Arizona ahead of 2024: The Note

Forces that have simmered just below the surface are spilling into the open.

December 12, 2022, 6:00 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

Democrats still have control of the Senate, and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema gets to keep her committee assignments.

Beyond those two facts, almost nothing in Sinema's decision to bolt from the Democratic Party leaves things settled in Washington or, more to the immediate point, Arizona. Forces that have simmered just below the surface inside the party and in a key battleground state are already spilling into the open.

Sinema is saying she hasn't yet decided whether to run for an additional term in 2024. But her free pass through the primaries as an independent would come with a steep potential price: the near-certainty of Democrats in Arizona putting up a candidate of their own, risking a messy three-way split that could help elect a Republican.

Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., started raising money for a potential Senate bid within hours of Sinema's announcement. One of his colleagues, Rep. Greg Stanton, tweeted an internal poll hinting strongly at his own interest in the seat.

Arizona's Democratic Party -- which voted to formally censure Sinema over her refusal to change filibuster rules earlier this year -- looks primed for more battle. The party put out a statement saying Sinema "answers to corporations and billionaires, not Arizonians."

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said on Sunday on CNN that Sinema is a "corporate Democrat" who has "sabotaged" progressive priorities. That sentiment makes it hard to imagine Democrats treating Sinema like they do Sanders or Sen. Angus King of Maine -- independents who are functionally Democrats and are treated as such for political purposes.

President Joe Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer are giving Sinema some space, with generous statements and, in the Schumer's case, allowing Sinema to keep committee assignments determined by Democrats.

But with a brutal Senate map in 2024 -- Democrats are defending 23 of 34 seats that are up, including in Trump-friendly Ohio, Montana and West Virginia -- generosity is unlikely to last. Biden, Schumer and national Democrats are going to have to make their own choices now that Sinema has made hers.

PHOTO: A split screen of Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Kyrtsen Sinema
A split screen of Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Kyrtsen Sinema
Left: Scott Eisen/Getty Images | Right: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper

Following a swearing-in on Sunday by Vice President Kamala Harris, another historic first in her office, Karen Bass has taken her place as the first woman to lead the city of Los Angeles.

Bass will be the second Black mayor to represent the nation's second-largest city. Her ascent comes as Black mayors are at the helm of several major cities -- Eric Adams in New York, Lori Lightfoot in Chicago and Sylvester Turner in Houston.

As the pomp and circumstance of her election win subsides, Bass will be charged with taking on the issue of homelessness within the city's limits. Homeless encampments and public safety were critical issues in Bass's campaign against billionaire real estate developer Rick Caruso.

"If we just focus on bringing people inside, comprehensively addressing their needs and moving them to permanent housing with a way to pay their bills, we will save lives and save our city,'' Bass said. "That is my mission as your mayor.''

Bass has already appointed a homelessness czar and has met with members of her transition team on the topic, an indication of the priority placed on the issue.

She has also said she will declare a state of emergency as it relates to homelessness on her first day in office.

PHOTO: Los Angeles Mayor-elect Karen Bass arrives for her inauguration, Dec. 11, 2022, in Los Angeles.
Los Angeles Mayor-elect Karen Bass arrives for her inauguration, Dec. 11, 2022, in Los Angeles.
Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

The TIP with Alisa Wiersema

Since last month's announcement that he's running again for the White House, former President Donald Trump has been embroiled in legal challenges, made headlines for calling for the suspension of the Constitution over false election fraud claims and dined with a white nationalist.

What Trump has not done is hold any campaign rallies or events, nor has he announced plans to campaign in traditional early voting states.

The lack of visible time on the trail appears to be continuing after Trump's chosen candidate in Georgia's Senate election, Herschel Walker, lost to incumbent Democrat Raphael Warnock. In the weeks leading up to the runoff last week, Trump did not campaign for Walker on the ground, likely out of concerns that his involvement would discourage Republican voters in the state who have already rejected him and his other endorsements.

Walker's loss was the latest indication that Trump's king-maker status is waning while also moving a formerly red state into the tossup category. Although there are nearly two years and a long slate of primaries separating Trump from Election Day 2024, a likely question heading into next year will be whether he recovers his political stature within the Republican Party.

At least one Republican -- Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy who voted to convict Trump at his second impeachment trial, in 2021 -- says Trump is not the leader of the party. Cassidy on Sunday also called on fellow conservatives to look to the future on issues and focus on being "a center-right" kind of party.

"[Republican voters] might [support Trump], but they might support somebody else as well. Secondly that doesn't mean that he's the leader of the Republican Party. The Republican Party does not have a president in office right now," Cassidy said in an interview with CNN.

PHOTO: Sen. Bill Cassidy leaves a meeting with the Senate Republicans at the U.S. Capitol, Nov. 16, 2022 in Washington, DC.
Sen. Bill Cassidy leaves a meeting with the Senate Republicans at the U.S. Capitol, Nov. 16, 2022 in Washington, DC.
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images


ABC News' "Start Here" podcast. "Start Here" begins Monday morning with ABC’s MaryAlice Parks on what Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s decision to leave the Democratic Party means for their majority in the chamber. Then ABC’s Aaron Katersky reports a suspect has been taken into U.S. custody for the 1988 mid-air bombing of Pan Am 103 that left 270 people dead. And, ABC’s Em Nguyen details the impact of a Keystone pipeline leak in Kansas.


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