'I promised Arizonans something different': Sinema on registering as an independent

There’s a disconnect between what everyday Americans want and deserve from our politics and what political parties are offering.

I am privileged to represent Arizonans of all backgrounds and beliefs in the U.S. Senate and am honored to travel to every corner of our state, listening to your concerns and ideas.

While Arizonans don’t all agree on the issues, we are united in our values of hard work, common sense and independence.

We make our own decisions, using our own judgment and lived experiences to form our beliefs. We don’t line up to do what we’re told, automatically subscribe to whatever positions the national political parties dictate or view every issue through labels that divide us.

Each day, Arizonans wake up, work and live alongside people with different views and experiences, usually without even thinking about partisan politics.

Arizonans expect our leaders to follow that example – set aside political games, work together, make progress and then get out of the way so we can build better lives for ourselves and our families.

It’s no surprise that Washington, D.C., often fails to reflect that expectation.

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'I promised Arizonans something different'

Everyday Americans are increasingly left behind by national parties’ rigid partisanship, which has hardened in recent years. Pressures in both parties pull leaders to the edges, allowing the loudest, most extreme voices to determine their respective parties’ priorities and expecting the rest of us to fall in line.

In catering to the fringes, neither party has demonstrated much tolerance for diversity of thought. Bipartisan compromise is seen as a rarely acceptable last resort, rather than the best way to achieve lasting progress. Payback against the opposition party has replaced thoughtful legislating.

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Americans are told that we have only two choices – Democrat or Republican – and that we must subscribe wholesale to policy views the parties hold, views that have been pulled further and further toward the extremes.

Most Arizonans believe this is a false choice, and when I ran for the U.S. House and the Senate, I promised Arizonans something different. I pledged to be independent and work with anyone to achieve lasting results. I committed I would not demonize people I disagreed with, engage in name-calling, or get distracted by political drama.

I promised I would never bend to party pressure, and I would stay focused on solving problems and getting things done for everyday Arizonans.

My approach is rare in Washington and has upset partisans in both parties.

It is also an approach that has delivered lasting results for Arizona.

I work proudly with senators in both parties who have similarly rejected political extremes and forged consensus, helping drain some of the poison from today’s politics.

That includes successful laws I was honored to lead rebuilding our country’s critical infrastructure, protecting our economic competitiveness, addressing historic drought to help secure our water future, expanding veterans’ benefits, boosting innovation and small businesses, protecting marriage access for LGBTQ Americans, strengthening mental health care and making our communities safer, more vibrant places in which to live and raise families.

Because we built support in both parties for these solutions, rather than pursuing more extreme party-line policies, these laws are lasting solutions – less likely to be overturned by a next Congress resulting in whipsawing federal policy, greater uncertainty and deeper divisions.

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Americans are more united than the national parties would have us believe. We’ve shown that a diverse democracy can still function effectively.

Arizonans – including many registered as Democrats or Republicans – are eager for leaders who focus on common-sense solutions rather than party doctrine.

But if the loudest, most extreme voices continue to drive each party toward the fringes – and if party leaders stay more focused on energizing their bases than delivering for all Americans – these kinds of lasting legislative successes will become rarer.

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It’s no wonder a growing number of Americans are registering as independents. In Arizona, that number often outpaces those registered with either national party.

When politicians are more focused on denying the opposition party a victory than they are on improving Americans’ lives, the people who lose are everyday Americans.

That’s why I have joined the growing numbers of Arizonans who reject party politics by declaring my independence from the broken partisan system in Washington.

I registered as an Arizona independent.

'Some partisans believe they own this Senate seat'

Like a lot of Arizonans, I have never fit perfectly in either national party.

Becoming an independent won’t change my work in the Senate; my service to Arizona remains the same.

Arizonans who’ve supported my work expanding jobs and economic opportunity, or my opposition to tax hikes that would harm our economic competitiveness, should know my focus on these areas will continue.

Arizonans who share my unwavering view that a woman’s health care decision should be between her, her doctor and her family should know that will always remain my position, as will my belief that LGBTQ Americans should not be denied any opportunity because of who they are or who they love.

For those who support my work to secure the southern border, ensure fair and humane treatment for migrants and permanently protect “Dreamers” who are Americans in all but name, those will remain my priorities.

For Arizonans who’ve supported my work to make health care more affordable and accessible, they should know I will continue that work, as I did when I helped negotiate a historic law allowing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices while still ensuring robust medical innovation.

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But if anyone previously supported me because they believed, contrary to my promise, that I would be a blindly loyal vote for a partisan agenda – or for those who believe our state should be represented by partisans who push divisive, negative politics, regardless of the impact on our state – then there are sure to be others vying for your support.

I offer Arizonans something different.

Some partisans believe they own this Senate seat.

They don’t.

This Senate seat doesn’t belong to Democratic or Republican bosses in Washington.

It doesn’t belong to one party or the other, and it doesn’t belong to me.

It belongs to Arizona, which is far too special a place to be defined by extreme partisans and ideologues.

It’s an honor to represent the state I love so much in the U.S. Senate. And while I do, I pledge to continue doing exactly what I promised – to be an independent voice for Arizona.

Kyrsten Sinema is the senior senator from Arizona. This column first ran in the Arizona Republic.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Kyrsten Sinema on why she left Democrats, registered as independent