PHOENIX, ARIZONA (NYTIMES) – Representative Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat and former social worker, scored a groundbreaking victory in the race for a Senate seat in Arizona, defeating her Republican opponent after waging a campaign in which she embraced solidly centrist positions, according to The Associated Press.
Ms Sinema’s victory over Ms Martha McSally, a Republican congresswoman and former Air Force pilot, marks the first Democratic triumph since 1976 in a battle for an open Senate seat in Arizona.
Ms Sinema takes the seat being vacated by Mr Jeff Flake, a Republican who retired after publicly clashing with President Donald Trump.
Ms Sinema’s victory guarantees the Democrats at least 47 Senate seats. Republicans control 51, with two still undecided: Florida, where there is a recount, and Mississippi, where there is a runoff.
Arizona has been a Republican bastion for decades, but Democrats are seizing on dissatisfaction with budget cuts and growing unease over the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown to make inroads with moderate voters.
Voter drives to register more Latinos, who generally vote Democratic in Arizona, appear to have paid off for Ms Sinema. About 2.1 million Latinos live in Arizona, about a third of the state’s population; while Mr Trump narrowly carried the state in the 2016 election, many Latinos in the state have expressed displeasure with the President.
“I have never been into politics until this year,” said Ms Oralia Ochoa, 26, a first-time voter who cast her ballot for Ms Sinema and other Democrats. “It all has to do with Trump and what’s going on.”
Ms Sinema started out in politics as a liberal activist and spokeswoman for the Green Party.
She shifted to the centre after winning a seat in 2012 in the House of Representatives, drawing criticism from some on the left for siding with Mr Trump and other Republicans on some legislation.
While Ms Sinema frequently voted with conservatives in the House, her background also stands in contrast to many other members of Congress.
She endured poverty and was homeless as a child, before becoming a social worker and obtaining a law degree.
Ms Sinema, 42, is also openly bisexual, and has spoken about facing bullying as a child because of her sexuality.
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