Next month, Kyrsten Sinema might become the first Democrat from Arizona elected to the U.S. Senate in 30 years.
But when asked on Wednesday if she's proud to be a Democrat, Sinema hesitated.
During a radio interview on KTAR (92.3 FM), after some introductory banter, hosts Mac Watson and Larry Gaydos posed a series of direct questions to Sinema, poking at her sense of party loyalty.
Are you a Democrat?
"I am," Sinema said.
"Oh gosh, it's hard to say proud. I don't know that — I'm not sure that people are even proud of parties anymore because I feel like the parties are, yech, not doing a good job," Sinema said.
"I would say that I'm a proud Arizonan. That's something I'm very proud of," she added.
Sinema explained that she is proud of her work in Congress and, before that, in the Arizona Legislature. "But I'm not particularly proud of the parties," she said.
A three-term congresswoman who represents Tempe and metro Phoenix in District 9, Sinema is up against Republican Congresswoman Martha McSally in the brutal Senate contest. Most polls show Sinema maintaining a small lead over McSally.
Sinema's statements on KTAR serve as her clearest acknowledgment to date that she is essentially running an independent Senate campaign under the banner of the Democratic Party.
Famously, Sinema's voting record in Congress is far more conservative than her peers. She has supported President Trump's position on congressional legislation over half the time. And during her Senate campaign, Sinema has used this independent streak to her advantage, emphasizing her voting record as one of several key talking points.
When asked in the interview on KTAR whether it's by design that her ads do not feature a "D" indicating that she is a Democrat, Sinema gave a rare direct answer.
"That's right," she said. "Because I'm an independent voice for Arizonans."
Watson seemed flabbergasted.
"I thought you would've totally dodged that question ... why not say, I'm not affiliated with the Democratic Party? Run as an independent like a Joe Lieberman, and do it that way?" Watson said.
"Tried that once, remember?" Sinema said wryly. In 2002, Sinema ran unsuccessfully as an independent for the Arizona House of Representatives, with the backing of the local Green Party.
Sinema has yet to endorse David Garcia, Arizona's Democratic nominee for governor and a proponent of much more liberal policy positions. As it happens, Garcia is trailing Governor Doug Ducey by a wide margin in the polls.
Sinema's campaign declined to comment.
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