The Blue, Blue Wave continues! Kyrsten Sinema prevails.

Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat, won a remarkable victory in the race for an open Arizona Senate seat, defeating her Republican opponent after a campaign in which she cast herself as an independent in the tradition of the state's late senator John McCain.

At 7.41ET on Monday, six days after the polls closed and as votes were still being counted, the Associated Press declared that Sinema had beaten the US congresswoman Martha McSally, a former air force fighter pilot, to become the state's first female senator. The last time a Democrat was elected to an open senate seat in this conservative western state was 1976, the year Sinema was born.

"Arizonans had a choice between two very different ways forward: one focused on fear and party politics and one focused on Arizona and the issues that matter to everyday families," Sinema said in her victory speech in Scottsdale. "I am so honored that Arizonans chose our vision."

McSally conceded in a video posted on Twitter.

"I just called Kyrsten Sinema and congratulated her on becoming Arizona's first female senator after a hard-fought battle," McSally said in the video, as she pet her dog Boomer.

Sinema won the race with with roughly 1.7 percentage points, though her vote share could grow as more ballots are tallied. McSally initially held the lead after election night. But as election officials rushed to tabulate the votes in one of the most closely watched Senate races of the cycle, McSally's margin slipped – a development that prompted Donald Trump and other prominent national Republicans to claim without proof that election officials were engaging in "electoral corruption" to boost Sinema.

Following the midterm elections, Republicans hold the majority in the Senate by a margin of 51 to 47, with two races yet to be called: in Mississippi, where there is a run off election and in Florida, where there is a recount.

Sinema, who began her political career as a Green party activist and was one of the most liberal members of the state legislature, embraced a far more centrist posture in the federal government. When she arrived in Congress in 2013, she joined the conservative Blue Dog coalition and was the first Senate candidate to declare that she would not support the minority leader, Chuck Schumer, if she were elected. She will also make history as the first openly bisexual member of Congress.

"Arizonans went to the polls last Tuesday looking for bold new leadership, and that's exactly what they're going to get with their first-ever female senator and our nation's second openly LGBTQ senator," the DNC chairman Tom Perez said in a statement.

McSally, who represents a swing congressional district in Tucson, was dragged to the right by her Republican primary opponents, the former state senator Kelli Ward, and the former Maricopa county sheriff, Joe Arpaio. A onetime critic of the president who refused to say whether she had voted for him, McSally embraced Trump and moved sharply to the right on issues of immigration.

Both dogged by their political realignments, Sinema and McSally ran sharply different campaigns. Sinema, who faced no real primary challenge, emphasized her independence and did not call herself a Democrat in her campaign ads. She courted Republican voters with a message singularly focused on healthcare.

McSally, who faced a competitive primary, tried to cast Sinema as a liberal disguised as a centrist and accused her of "treason" during a contentious Senate debate in October – a charge referencing Sinema's antiwar views in a 15-year-old interview. The posture reflected Trump's influence on her campaign, beginning in January with a video in which McSally called on Washington Republicans to "grow a pair of ovaries and get the job done".

On Monday night, Sinema said: "Arizona rejected what has become far too common in our country, name-calling, petty, personal attacks and doing and saying whatever it takes just to get elected. It's dangerous and it lessens who we are as a country, but Arizona proved there is a better way forward."

Sinema, who frequently voted with conservatives in the House and leads a bipartisan spin class in Congress, promised to "seek common ground" and said she would work "with anyone", even the president. In her remarks, she paid tribute to McCain and said she would try to follow his example of putting "country before party".Sinema's victory marks a dramatic political shift in a state that was once a conservative western outpost. For decades Arizona has eluded Democrats even as the state grew increasingly diverse.

As Democrats debate their future ahead of 2020, Sinema's supporters argue that her strategy offers a case study in how to win in traditionally conservative states. She resisted the party's swerve to the left. In a move that set her apart from other Democrats in the state, she refused to back her party's nominee for governor, David Garcia, who ran on an unapologetically liberal platform and lost to the Republican incumbent, Doug Ducey, on 6 November.

Her election could significantly shift the battleground map ahead of 2020 as Democrats turn increasingly toward the diverse sun belt states like Arizona. Elsewhere in 2018, Democrats fiercely contested races in Florida, Georgia and Texas, some of which have yet to be called.

Democrats' only gains in the Senate so far have been in Arizona and Nevada, where congresswoman Jacky Rosen unseated the Republican senator Dean Heller. These victories stand in stark contrast to the Democratic losses this cycle: three moderate incumbents were decisively defeated by Republican opponents in increasingly conservative states thanks to the support from rural and small-town voters.

The Arizona Republican party, which has for years waved off predictions that the state would "turn blue", hailed McSally as a "hero, a patriot" and "the real deal".

"While we are all disappointed by tonight's result, know this: we haven't heard the last of Martha McSally, and I'll be her wingman whenever she needs one," Jonathan Lines, the party chairman said in a statement, adding: "We look forward to seeing what comes next."

There is speculation that McSally could be appointed to McCain's Senate seat should its current occupant, the former Arizona senator Jon Kyl, step down. Kyl was appointed to fill McCain's seat after his death from brain cancer in August. But the former senator made clear that he does not intend to serve until 2020, when an election for the seat will be held.

Late Monday evening, Flake congratulated his successor on a "race well run".

"It's been a wonderful honor representing Arizona in the Senate," the conservative senator said. "You'll be great."

Lauren Gambino, The Guardian, November 13, 2018


November 13, 2018

Post Script. Share this to spread the word about the Blue victory in AZ - their first-ever female senator and our nation's second openly LGBTQ senator!

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