After a delay in ballot counting following last week’s midterm election, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema was officially announced as the winner of Arizona’s Senate race on Monday. She becomes the state’s first female U.S. senator.
Sinema defeated Republican Martha McSally, who was leading on Wednesday with 790,911 votes to Sinema’s 768,737, with about 75 percent of precincts reporting. By Monday, the nearly 1 million remaining ballots were finally counted, and Sinema emerged on top.
In a victory speech on Monday evening, Sinema framed her win as a move away from “petty” politics.
“Arizona proved there’s a better way forward,” she said. “We can work with people that are different than us ... We can embrace difference while seeking common ground.”
In a Twitter post, McSally said she had called Sinema to congratulate her. “I wish her all success as she represents Arizona in the Senate,” McSally said.
Sinema replaces retiring GOP Sen. Jeff Flake. Arizona was set to get its first female senator regardless of the election’s outcome, and both candidates are barrier-breakers in their own rights.
Sinema made history in 2012 when she became the nation’s first openly bisexual member of Congress. McSally is a retired Air Force colonel and was the first female fighter pilot to fly in combat.
The race for the Senate seat was exceptionally close and was viewed as crucial to Democrats’ chances of taking back the U.S. Senate, but losses for a handful of Democratic incumbents ended that possibility. Arizona is a former Republican bastion ― home to Barry Goldwater, the founder of the modern conservative movement ― that has slowly emerged as a swing state in recent years, due in part to a steady rise in Latino voters.
The contest largely centered on health care, an issue of primary importance particularly to the more than 1 million Arizonans who have a pre-existing health condition. In the lead-up to the midterm election, Sinema and Democratic groups emphasized McSally’s votes to repeal protections for pre-existing conditions in the Affordable Care Act. McSally’s campaign approach was primarily to turn voters’ attention to Sinema’s past and ideology, especially her activism against the Iraq War.
Even with Sinema’s win, Republicans will still hold control of the Senate but at a slightly smaller margin. Several other races remain up in the air. Florida’s Senate race between Republican Rick Scott and Democrat incumbent Bill Nelson is approaching a recount deadline on Thursday. The Senate race in Mississippi advanced to a runoff after neither Republican Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith nor Democrat Mike Espy garnered more than 50 percent of the vote.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.