Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, an out bisexual, has been declared the winner in a hard-fought US Senate race in Arizona to replace retiring Republican Jeff Flake.
Sinema, a three-term member of the US House of Representatives, defeated another Arizona House member, Republican Martha McSally, after a week in which election officials there scrambled to count absentee and early voting ballots.
Sinema is the first Democrat elected in an open Senate election since 1976, when Dennis DeConcini was elected to the first of his three terms.
Despite the protracted uncertainty as to who would emerge the winner, the Democrat’s margin of victory was about 1.7 percentage points.
Flake was both a frequent critic and a frequent target of President Donald Trump, who was triumphal about the Republican incumbent’s decision to retire. It proved a pyrrhic victory for the president, who now faces a Democrat in the Arizona seat.
Though Sinema was a Green Party member and anti-war activist during the early years of the war in Iraq, her record in the House was far more centrist and she joined the conservative Blue Dog Coalition among House Democrats soon after she first took her seat in 2013. Her campaign this year emphasized her hard-scrabble upbringing, which including living for a short time in an abandoned gas station in the Florida panhandle.
Despite Sinema’s centrist posture and occasional support for Trump administration initiatives, McSally, herself generally a moderate — and a critic of Trump during the 2016 campaign — lashed out harshly at the Democrat during this year’s race, at one point labeling anti-war comments she made 15 years ago “treason.”
Sinema’s victory means that Senate Republicans will have at most 53 seats next year, pending the outcome of a recount between incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson and challenger Rick Scott, Florida’s governor, and a runoff in Mississippi between GOP incumbent Cindy Hyde-Smith and Democrat Mike Espy, an African-American former congressmember.
The Senate will now have one bisexual member as well as an out lesbian, Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat who easily won reelection in Wisconsin. In the House, four new out LGBTQ Democrats — from New Hampshire, Minnesota, Kansas, and California — were elected on November 6 and will join four incumbent Democrats, including New York’s Sean Patrick Maloney, who won reelection last week.
The queer community also scored victories in two statehouse contests, with the election of Jared Polis, an out gay five-term congressmember, as governor of Colorado and the reelection of out bisexual Democrat Kate Brown in Oregon.