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BY KAREN OCAMB
It’s official. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, an out centrist bisexual Democrat, has defeated Donald Trump’s choice to replace retiring Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, Republican Rep. Martha McSally. It’s the first Democratic win in the red state since 1976.
The nail-biter was too close to call on election night and for days counting the outstanding ballots. But Sinema’s lead expanded by more than 32,000 votes as mail-in ballots were counted over the weekend, enough for supporters to believe the gap was “insurmountable.”
Monday night McSally conceded in a video posted on her Twitter account. “I just called Kyrsten Sinema and congratulated her on being Arizona’s first female senator after a hard fight battle,” McSally said. “I wish her all success as she represents Arizona in the senate.”
Sinema, 42, posted a statement on Facebook pledging to continue working to “find common ground.” “That’s the same approach I’ll take to representing our great state in the Senate, where I’ll be an independent voice for all Arizonans,” she wrote.
Democrats now control at least 47 Senate seats, though Republicans still hold the majority with 51—with two seats still undecided, Florida, where there is a recount, though Rick Scott is sure he beat Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, and in Mississippi, where there is a runoff.
Sinema joins out Wisconsin Sen. Tammy Baldwin, who faced a hard fight but handily won re-election in the end.
Sinema talked to the Los Angeles Blade before her appearance at the Human Rights Campaign gala last March. She expressed then much of the same attitude as she expressed during the campaign and with her victory.
“Growing up, we were like every other working family until my dad lost his job and we lost our home. We ended up living in an abandoned gas station for nearly three years. But I worked hard, got an education, and got my shot at the American dream. I’m focused on making sure every Arizonan gets his or her shot just like I did,” Sinema told the Los Angeles Blade.
Sinema said being an out bisexual for her three terms in Congress has not been an issue. “When I talk with Arizonans, it’s the last thing on their minds. Arizonans want to talk about protecting our health care and jobs,” she said.
“This isn’t a matter of one party being right and the other being wrong,” Sinema said. “If we allow our basic values to become just another political football, we’ll all lose. If President Trump is willing to work together to stand up for Arizonans, I’ll work with him. We’ve done this when it comes to standing up for veterans. If he pursues policies that undermine Arizona families, I’ll stand up to him, like when we stopped his effort to take away our access to health care. My guiding principle is always doing what’s right for Arizona.”
It may be this desire to solve problems that explains her strategic political evolution.
“I learned early on that you get more things done when you’re willing to work together,” Sinema said. “The problem with Washington is that people don’t listen to those who have different points of view so they never find the common ground needed to really solve problems. When you actually talk with people and work across the aisle, it’s amazing how much you can accomplish. That’s how I was able to reach across the aisle to pass a law that helps our veterans get better health care. That kind of pragmatism is how we get things done in Arizona.”