PHOENIX (CN) — With the U.S. Senate race between Congresswomen Kyrsten Sinema and Martha McSally still too close to call, Arizonans woke up this morning not knowing who their first woman senator will be.
After watching on giant television screens and cheering as Democrats nationwide won race after race through the night, regaining control of the U.S. House of Representatives, Arizona Democrats gathered in Phoenix gave up waiting for Senate race results before midnight and went home.
Early Thursday morning, the Arizona Secretary of State’s office showed Republican McSally leading by 15,908 votes: 850,043 to 834,135, or 49.3 percent to 48.2 percent.
Green Party candidate Angela Green, who dropped out of the race and endorsed Sinema late in the race, after she had garnered thousands of mail-in votes, had 2.2 percent with 38,597 votes, according to the secretary of state.
Regardless of who wins, she will become Arizona’s first woman senator.
Sinema, 42, a former state representative and state senator who represents Maricopa County’s urban 9th Congressional District, grew up poor in Tucson. She attended Arizona State University on a scholarship, ASU law school, then worked as a criminal defense attorney. In 2012, she earned a Ph.D. in justice studies.
She began her political career with a failed run for the Legislature as an independent, Green Party-affiliated candidate. In 2004, she was elected to the Arizona House of Representatives, where she served three terms, followed by one term in the Arizona Senate before her election to Congress in 2012.
McSally, 52, is a relative newcomer to politics.
During her 26-year Air Force career, she successfully sued the U.S. government to stop the practice of forcing U.S. servicewomen to wear traditional Muslim clothing when traveling outside military bases, and was the first woman pilot to fly a U.S. combat mission.
She ran for Congress twice unsuccessfully before being elected in 2012 in District 2, losing two elections to former U.S. Rep. Ron Barber, who replaced his former boss, Gabrielle Giffords, after she was shot and gravely wounded in 2011. McSally stepped down to run for the vacated Senate seat now held by Republican Jeff Flake.
Rhetoric in the campaign escalated in the final days, when McSally accused Sinema of indifference to treason for comments made more than a decade ago on a radio show, when she said she didn’t care if people went to fight with the Taliban.
Sinema maintained her focus on issues and McSally’s voting record, which matched President Trump’s views 98 percent of the time. Sinema’s votes agreed with Trump 64 percent of the time.
University of Arizona graduate Emilio Romero, 29, voted for Sinema Tuesday, though he said his vote wasn’t entirely a vote for Sinema.
“It’s probably more opposition to McSally’s views than anything. It all comes down to what’s happening in the White House,” he said. He thinks McSally is too similar to the nation’s old-guard leaders, many of whom have served for decades in Congress.
“I think a younger voice is a good thing,” he said of Sinema.
Mike Sultzbach, a 69-year-old financial manager, voted for McSally, largely for the same reason Romero voted for Sinema: because of what’s happening in the White House. Sultzbach wants a senator who supports Trump’s Supreme Court nominees and economic policies.
“You never know for sure, but she has a pretty good record of doing those things,” he said.
Salzbach may have been taking a bigger risk than some folks who voted for McSally – his wife voted for Sinema. No fireworks resulted, though.
“The marriage is more important than the politics,” he said, smiling.
The Secretary of State’s Office will post more results through the day as they become available.