Kyrsten Sinema became the first Democrat elected to the U.S. Senate from Arizona in three decades, after an extended vote count delivered an upset victory and a blow to Republicans and President Donald Trump.
Sinema won over a fellow U.S. House member, Republican Martha McSally. She becomes the first female senator elected from Arizona and the first openly bisexual senator.
With almost three-quarters of the state’s voters casting ballots by mail in the close race, it took Arizona officials six days to finish tabulating the results. The outcome leaves the party division in the Senate at 51-47 in favor of Republicans, with the Florida race in a recount and another contest in Mississippi set for a runoff.
McSally called Sinema to concede the race shortly before the Democrat gave her victory speech, according to a person familiar with the call who wasn’t authorized to discuss it.
While Sinema praised her opponent in the speech, she took a more solemn tone when discussing the campaign.
“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,” Sinema said. “It’s dangerous and it lessens who we are as a country. But Arizona proved there is a better way forward.”
The outcome is a political setback for Trump, who carried Arizona in 2016 and spent two days in the state last month in an effort to shore up the candidacy of McSally, a former Air Force pilot. As the vote count dragged on, Trump asserted, without evidence, that there was corruption in the tally. Some state GOP officials pushed back against the assertion and settled a dispute over taking extra time to verify ballots.
Sinema won by 38,197 votes out of more than 2.2 million cast — for a margin of 1.7 percentage points — according to the Arizona Secretary of State’s tally.
McSally congratulated Sinema in a Twitter post. “I wish her success and am grateful to all those who supported me in this journey,” she wrote. In a video with the post, McSally spoke on a couch seated next to a playful dog.
Sinema will replace Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, a frequent Trump critic who often attracted the president’s ire. Flake’s sparring with Trump all but assured that if the senator ran again, he would have faced a primary challenge from the GOP’s right wing that Flake decided he probably couldn’t win.
The race was one of the year’s most hotly contested, and each contender was ahead in two or more polls since mid-October.