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Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema Has a Chance to Become Arizona's First Female Senator

Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema won the Democratic Primary on Tuesday to replace Jeff Flake as Arizona Senator. She will face Republican Rep. Martha McSally in an important contest to determine which party captures the US Senate and also which woman will be Arizona's first female Senator. Arizona is traditionally a Republican stronghold but its demographic changes over the last decade make it competitive for Sinema and she is a talented politician with an intriguing career and back-story.

CNN: "Sinema was born in to a middle-class Tucson family, whose financial woes escalated during the 1980s. Her parents divorced, and her mother remarried and moved Sinema and two siblings to Florida with their new stepfather. The financial troubles would deteriorate further in Florida, Sinema recalled."

"Being homeless for three years is not easy," she said, reflecting on how her family moved into an abandoned gas station. "Living without running water, without electricity, sometimes being hungry, it teaches you to value every opportunity that comes your way."

Sinema's childhood experiences drove her to excel from an early age. She graduated from high school as valedictorian at the age of 16 and finished her bachelor’s degree at the age of 18. She went on to get a Masters degree, Law degree, and PhD from Arizona State University. Sinema worked as criminal defense attorney before running for the state Legislature as a member of the Green Party. Soon after her entry to politics she came out publicly as a bisexual and led a state campaign to defeat a same-sex marriage ban.

Advocate: “In 2006, Arizona was the first state in the country to defeat a constitutional amendment to ban marriage equality at the ballot box,” Sinema proudly tells The Advocate. “I chaired that effort with my friend and former legislator Steve May, and we were successful because we took it out of a partisan context and instead connected with voters where they were. We focused on how this issue affects everyday Arizonans and set an example for the nation on how we are all more alike than different.”

When Sinema joined the Democratic Party and won her House seat she became the only openly bisexual member in Congress. But, since her election she has developed a reputation as a bit of a bipartisan maverick with plenty of friends on all sides of the political spectrum.

CNN: But if her background on paper sounds like that of a forceful liberal, Sinema paints herself in ads and in person as an upbeat, unifying moderate. Sinema points out her congressional voting record of about 60% in line with President Donald Trump, touting a moderate record with an ever-diversifying Arizona. Shifting demographics in the state have pushed the politics more purple and Trump won Arizona in 2016 by less than 4 percentage points.

"I'm not an ideological person," said Sinema, cheerful as she spoke with CNN in an interview. "I'm very practical, common sense. Very focused on getting the job done. I think that's spoken to a lot people in Arizona who are the same way. We share those same values."

However, Sinema has also been quite vocal on gun violence and racism, especially as both have impacted Arizona.

Advocate: Bipartisan tendencies are natural for Arizona, but they also belie a liberal streak within the candidate. In a state where congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was nearly assassinated in a mass shooting, it’s still brave to say, as Sinema does, that “I haven’t taken money from the [National Rifle Association] and I never will.”

The politician doesn’t temper words when it comes to convicted criminal Joe Arpaio, a racist who profiled Latinos for decades as Maricopa County sheriff.

“Arizonans know the impact Arpaio’s dangerous and divisive actions have had on our state,” she says. “I’ve never been afraid to stand up to Joe Arpaio.”

The Senate race in Arizona is going to be grueling, nasty and close right down to the wire, within a few percentage points. But don't doubt that Sinema has the endurance and mettle for it. She was the first House member to compete in an Ironman triathlon while serving in Congress. "At the time I signed up for the race, the idea that I could complete an Ironman was beyond my understanding," Sinema says. "For me, it was my bucket-list race."After crossing that first finish line and continuing to further her professional career, Sinema went on to compete in several Ironman 70.3 races, while sprinkling in multiple marathons as well.


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