What’s unique about Arizona’s new U.S. senators
Congress will welcome two new senators from Arizona in 2019: Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema and Republican Rep. Martha McSally. The two make an uncommon pair in many respects. Besides being new to the Senate, they hail from different parties, they’ll be the first two women to represent Arizona in the U.S. Senate, and they just competed against one another in an intense race for office.
Two new senators from a state at once doesn’t happen all that often; a 2017 analysis from the University of Minnesota’s Smart Politics found that five states had hosted elections for both Senate seats at one time since 2000. This situation is unlike those instances, in that Sinema’s the only one of the two who’s won a Senate election.
Reps. McSally and Sinema vied for retiring Republican Jeff Flake’s seat in November, with Rep. Sinema coming out on top as the first-ever female U.S. senator to be elected by Arizona voters. Then, in mid-December, Sen. Jon Kyl — whom Governor Doug Ducey had appointed to fill late Sen. John McCain’s seat — resigned, effective December 31.
Gov. Ducey recently announced his appointment of Sinema’s former opponent, McSally, who will serve in McCain’s seat after Sen. Kyl leaves. Politico reported that Ducey said Sinema will be sworn in first and will serve as the state’s senior senator.
Now, they’ll together represent one of six states sending two female senators, and one of ten states sending senators who represent two different parties to the Senate in 2019.
Much of the candidates’ debate leading up to the November race focused on health care; Sinema emphasized that she voted against a bill that would’ve partially repealed the ACA — a bill McSally voted for. The vote haunted McSally throughout the campaign.
Campaigns aside, the competitors have each positioned themselves as bipartisan lawmakers at some point. Sinema’s part of the Blue Dog Coalition of “pragmatic,” “fiscally-responsible” Democrats and was named the sixth-most bipartisan member in the House and the third-most bipartisan Democrat by a Georgetown index in 2017. McSally was ranked 69th overall on the same list; however, as a member of the House, she co-led a Problem Solvers Caucus bipartisan working group that created a “plan to stabilize the individual market and provide immediate relief to constituents, families, and small businesses” in 2017.
“I also look forward to working with Kyrsten Sinema in the Senate, just like we did in the House,” McSally said at the press conference where Gov. Ducey announced her appointment. “There’s a lot of common ground between us, and I’m ready to hit it running.”