Sinema wins U.S. Senate race, becomes first woman to represent AZ

By: - November 12, 2018 9:53 pm

U.S. Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema speaking with supporters at a neighborhood canvas hosted by the Arizona Education Association at Provision Coffee Arcadia in Phoenix on Oct. 24, 2018. Photo courtesy Gage Skidmore

U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema is now U.S. Sen.-elect Kyrsten Sinema, as nearly a week of tallying votes has given her an insurmountable lead over fellow Congresswoman Martha McSally.

Sinema becomes the first woman ever to represent Arizona in the U.S. Senate, and the first Democrat since Dennis DeConcini was re-elected in 1988. She is the first Democrat to win an open U.S. Senate seat in the state since 1976, when DeConcini was first elected.

Early Monday evening, after several Arizona county elections offices reported their daily vote counts to state elections officials, the Associated Press called the race in Sinema’s favor. A short time later, McSally, a Republican from Tucson, conceded.

In a victory speech at a Scottsdale resort, Sinema invoked the late Sen. John McCain, who died in August.

“He taught us to assume the best in others, to seek compromise instead of sewing division, and to always put country ahead of party,” she said. “As your Senator, that’s exactly what I’ll do. Not by calling names or playing political games, but by showing up and doing the work to keep Arizona moving forward.”

Sinema, among the most conservative Democrats in the U.S. House during her three terms representing a swing district in Phoenix, pledged to “double down” on her bipartisan brand of politics as senator.

McSally, meanwhile, abandoned the moderate stance that allowed her to win two terms from a swing district in Southern Arizona and aligned herself closely with President Donald Trump. McSally’s gambit worked in the GOP primary, where she fended off a challenge from Kelli Ward, a former state legislator who presented herself as the true conservative in the contest.

McSally also defeated disgraced Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who in 2017 was convicted of criminal contempt in federal court and then accepted a pardon from Trump. Arpaio finished a distant third.

Sinema’s victory is the highlight of the 2018 elections for Arizona Democrats. Arizona Democratic Party Chairwoman Felecia Rotellini said Sinema will represent regular Arizonans, not special interests, in the Senate.

“Arizonans spoke loud and clear: we want a Senator who will stand firm to protect access to health care and to fight for veterans, and who won’t let politics get in the way of getting things done for our state,” Rotellini said in a statement.

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Jim Small
Jim Small

Jim Small is a native Arizonan and has covered state government, policy and politics since 2004, with a focus on investigative and in-depth policy reporting, first as a reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times, then as editor of the paper and its prestigious sister publications. He has also served as the editor and executive director of the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting.