Like nail-biters? Progressive Democrats are excited about a projected big blue wave of Democratic victories that will take back both the House and Senate in the November midterms. Seasoned politicos, however, caution that the anticipated wins over vulnerable Republicans will not be so easy in gerrymandered and traditionally GOP districts, even if Donald Trump sinks in the polls.
And then there is the clash for 34 Senate seats between “the political environment versus the political map,” as pollster Charlie Cook puts it. Republicans now hold 51 seats to 49 for the Democrats, which means that the Democrats need a net gain of just two seats to become the majority, while also holding 10 seats in states Trump won in 2016.
One of those two seats could be in red state Arizona, with the announced retirement of junior Republican Sen. Jeff Flake. The state’s junior senator, Jeff Flake, who, Real Clear Politics reported, “found himself crosswise with the state’s Republican base due to his continued loud opposition to Donald Trump”—a constituency that seemed to favor former state senator and “conservative firebrand” Kelli Ward. Somewhat overlooked at the time was that Flake was also running behind in the polls to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, an openly bisexual member of Congress who has actually managed to get at least two bills passed in the conservative Republican-majority House of Representatives.
On Tuesday, the Human Rights Campaign told the Los Angeles Blade that Sinema—who HRC just endorsed in her Senate race—will be speaking at the HRC LA gala on March 10 at the Ritz-Carlton/JW Marriott Los Angeles-L.A. Live. Longtime LGBT ally Rep. Maxine Waters—a superstar at the California Democratic Party convention this past weekend—will also be speaking.
“Kyrsten Sinema is a fighter and a trailblazer who has spent her career advancing the rights of the LGBTQ community,” HRC President Chad Griffin said in a press release. “As a highly effective legislator, Kyrsten has proven herself to be a relentless champion for equality. We are proud to endorse her candidacy for the U.S. Senate.”
“I am honored to earn the support of the Human Rights Campaign,“ said Sinema. “HRC has worked tirelessly to ensure all Arizona families can love and take care of each other. We won’t stop fighting until every Arizonan has his or her shot at the American dream.”
Sinema is not only a serious candidate, she has a serious chance of success, according to the latest assessment by pollster Charlie Cook of the Cook Report. Concerned about Ward, establishment Republicans recruited Rep. Martha McSally to scorch Ward in the Aug. 28 primary.
“Like our president, I’m tired of PC politicians and their BS excuses. I’m a fighter pilot and I talk like one. That’s why I told Washington Republicans to grow a pair of ovaries and get the job done,” McSally said in her Jan. 12 announcement video. Politico soon dubbed her one of its 10 candidates to watch in the midterm elections.
But McSally’s not the only candidate linking victory to Donald Trump—controversial Maricopa County sheriff Joe Arpaio, who received a criminal pardon from Trump, has also entered the race. Speculation is now that Arpaio and Ward will split the populist vote in the Republican primary, paving the way for McSally to go head-to-head with Sinema in the Nov. 6 general election.
While McSally touts her military experience, Sinema comes from a military family and passed two-military-related bills in the House in 2016. And as Ballotpedia notes in their short biography, she has a compelling story to tell, as well:
“Sinema was raised in Tucson, Arizona. During her childhood, Sinema’s family spent two years living in an abandoned gas station. She went on to receive four degrees, including a bachelor’s and master’s degree in social work from Brigham Young University and Arizona State University, respectively, and then both a Juris Doctorate and Ph.D. in justice studies from Arizona State University.”
As of Jan. 23, three surveys projected the race a toss-up, with Real Clear Politics giving Sinema a +1. CNN rated the seat as one of 10 Senate seats most likely to flip in 2018.
If Sinema wins in November, she would be Arizona’s first female senator and the first out bisexual Senator in America.