Kyrsten Sinema becomes first Democrat to win a Senate race in Arizona in 30 years

Kyrsten Sinema defeated Martha McSally to become Arizona's next senator — and the first openly bisexual senator

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published November 13, 2018 9:00AM (EST)

Kyrsten Sinema (AP/Ross D. Franklin)
Kyrsten Sinema (AP/Ross D. Franklin)

Kyrsten Sinema has been elected as Arizona's next senator — as well as the first openly bisexual United States Senator ever.

The Democratic congresswoman defeated Republican Martha McSally, who is also a congresswoman, in their bid to fill an open seat that will soon be vacated by Republican Sen. Jeff Flake. Although McSally had initially been ahead of Sinema in early vote counts, Sinema took the lead as results came in from traditionally blue areas of the state. Once her lead had expanded to the point where the Associated Press called the race in her favor, McSally conceded late Monday night.

With that concession, Democrats have won their first open Arizona senate seat since 1976.

As a result of McSally's victory, Democrats will now have effective control of 47 seats in the Senate (45 belong to official Democrats and two others — the seats of Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine — are held by independents who caucus with the Democratic Party). Republicans continue to hold 51 seats, the same number that they held before the 2018 midterm elections, although that may change. There are two Senate races whose outcomes have yet to be determined: The Florida senate election which is currently undergoing a recount between incumbent Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, and his Republican challenger Gov. Rick Scott, and the Mississippi senate election, which will be decided in a runoff between Democratic former Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy and Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith.

In her remarks upon winning, Sinema pledged to follow a bipartisan approach to her job in the Senate.

"We can articulate our own opinions and beliefs without believing or saying that someone else's are therefore wrong. We can embrace difference while seeking common ground," Sinema told her supporters. "As I head to serve our great state in the United States Senate, I pledge to double down on this approach. During my six years in Congress, I’ve tried to be a cheerful warrior, willing to work with literally anyone to get things done."

Yvonne Wingett Sanchez and Ronald J. Hansen of The Arizona Republic pointed to the gender gap and health care as two issues that helped Sinema defeat McSally, as well as controversies related to President Donald Trump and a number of ugly incidents that occurred near the end of the campaign. Planned Parenthood also cited health care and gender as being key factors in Sinema's win.

"Congratulations to Kyrsten Sinema on her historic won [sic]," Dr. Leana Wen, President of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in a statement. "Kyrsten Sinema ran a campaign focused on the issues that every day Arizonans care about - including access to health care and the ability to make your own decisions about your body. For the tens of thousands of Arizonans that rely on Planned Parenthood health centers for their care, this election means they have a champion in the United States Senate. Planned Parenthood Action Fund looks forward to working with Senator Sinema to help protect and expand access to women’s health care."

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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2018 Midterm Elections Arizona Senate Election Kyrsten Sinema Lgbt Lgbt Issues Martha Mcsally