Democrat Kyrsten Sinema wins Arizona US Senate seat

PHOENIX (AP) — Democrat Kyrsten Sinema won Arizona's open U.S. Senate seat Monday in a race that was among the most closely watched in the nation, beating Republican Rep. Martha McSally in the battle to replace GOP Sen. Jeff Flake.

The three-term congresswoman won after a slow vote count that dragged on for nearly a week after voters went to the polls on Nov. 6. She becomes Arizona's first Democratic U.S. senator since 1994. Her win cemented Arizona as a swing state after years of Republican dominance.

Sinema portrayed herself as a moderate who works across the aisle to get things done.

McSally, a former Air Force pilot who embraced President Donald Trump after opposing him during the 2016 elections, had claimed that Sinema's anti-war protests 15 years ago disqualified her and said one protest amounted to what she called "treason."

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U.S. Sen.-elect Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., smiles after her victory over Republican challenger U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, Monday, Nov. 12, 2018, in Scottsdale, Ariz. Sinema won Arizona's open U.S. Senate seat in a race that was among the most closely watched in the nation, beating McSally in the battle to replace GOP Sen. Jeff Flake. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
CORRECTS FROM SEN.-ELECT TO CANDIDATE- U.S. Senate candidate Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., speaks to a supporter at the Barton Barr Central Library, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018, in Phoenix. Sinema and Republican challenger Martha McSally are seeking the senate seat being vacated by Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who is retiring in January.(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
CORRECTS TO DOWNTOWN PHOENIX CAMPUS NOT TEMPE - Democratic Senate candidate Kyrsten Sinema hands out doughnuts to Arizona State University students on the campus in downtown Phoenix on Monday, Nov. 5, 2018. Sinema, a congresswoman who teaches at the school, closed out her campaign against Republican Rep. Martha McSally with a dash across the Phoenix metro area. (AP Photo/Nicolas Riccardi)
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Kyrsten Sinema gestures before performing the coin toss before an NCAA college football game between Arizona State and Utah, Saturday, Nov 3, 2018, in Tempe, Ariz. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Kyrsten Sinema talks to volunteers at a get-out-the-vote phone bank in Phoenix, Ariz., Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018. Sinema and Republican Martha McSally are taking different approaches to the campaign, with Sinema focusing on retail politics and McSally rallying with high profile Republicans like Donald Trump Jr. (AP Photo/Bob Christie)
U.S. Senate candidates, U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., left, and U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., prepare their remarks in a television studio prior to a televised debate, Monday, Oct. 15, 2018, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
A supporter crosses her fingers as she talks with Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Kyrsten Sinema, at a get-out-the-vote event at the Arizona Education Association headquarters in Phoenix, Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018. Sinema is facing Republican Martha McSally in the race to replace Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, who is retiring. (AP Photo/Bob Christie)
Arizona Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema fills bags at a food bank in Phoenix, Ariz., Friday Oct. 19, 2018, while campaigning for an open U.S. Senate seat. Her opponent, Republican Rep. Martha McSally, was spending part of the day at a rally in Mesa, Ariz., with President Donald Trump, escorting him on a tour of Luke Air Force Base. (AP Photo/Bob Christie)
FILE - In this Oct. 15, 2018 file photo, U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., goes over the rules in a television studio prior to a televised debate with U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., in Phoenix. Sinema won Arizona's open U.S. Senate seat Monday, Nov. 12, in a race that was among the most closely watched in the nation, beating Republican Rep. Martha McSally in the battle to replace GOP Sen. Jeff Flake. (AP Photo/Matt York, File)
Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., talks to campaign volunteers at a Democratic campaign office on primary election day Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018, in Phoenix. Sinema is seeking the current U.S. Senate seat occupied by outgoing Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, and will face the Republican primary winner of the race between Rep. Martha McSally, former state Sen. Kelli Ward, and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, if Sinema wins the Democratic primary. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., middle, talks to campaign volunteers at a Democratic campaign office on primary election day Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018, in Phoenix. Sinema is seeking the current U.S. Senate seat occupied by outgoing Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, and will face the Republican primary winner of the race between Rep. Martha McSally, former state Sen. Kelli Ward, and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, if Sinema wins the Democratic primary. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., hugs a supporter at a Democratic campaign office on primary election day Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018, in Phoenix. Sinema is seeking the current U.S. Senate seat occupied by outgoing Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, and will face the Republican primary winner of the race between Rep. Martha McSally, former state Sen. Kelli Ward, and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, if Sinema wins the Democratic primary. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, who is running against Republican Rep. Martha McSally for the open Arizona Senate seat Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., is vacating, talks to campaign volunteers, Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018, in Tempe, Ariz. Arizona's Senate race pits Sinema, a careful politician running as a centrist in a Republican-leaning state, against McSally, a onetime Trump critic turned fan. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
FILE - In this Aug. 21, 2018, file photo, U.S. Senatorial candidate U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., speaks with volunteers in Phoenix. Sinema is the Democratic nominee seeking the seat of retiring U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. in a race against U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York, file)
In this Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018 photo, U.S. Senatorial candidate U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., volunteers at a food pantry in Phoenix. Sinema is the democratic nominee seeking the seat of retiring U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. in a race against U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz. (AP Photo/Matt York)
U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz. speaks prior to delivering her signatures to the Arizona Secretary of State's office Tuesday, May 29, 2018 at the Capitol in Phoenix. Sinema is officially running as a Democrat for U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Republican Sen. Jeff Flake. Women running for office have crossed another threshold with a record number of candidates for the U.S. Senate. In the two major parties, 42 women are expected to have qualified for 19 Senate seats. (AP Photo/Matt York)
IMAGE DISTRIBUTED FOR HUMAN RIGHTS CAMPAIGN - U.S. Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema seen at the 2018 Human Rights Campaign Los Angeles Dinner at JW Marriott L.A. Live on Saturday, March 10, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Dan Steinberg/Invision for Human Rights Campaign/AP Images)
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Sinema and supporters rushed to a Scottsdale resort Monday night after the latest batch of ballots showed her lead to be insurmountable.

"Arizona rejected what has been far too common in our country - name calling, petty, personal attacks and doing and saying what it takes to get elected," Sinema said as scores of backers waved her purple-and-yellow campaign sign. "But Arizona proved that there is a better way forward."

McSally posted a video message to twitter. "I just called Kyrsten Sinema and congratulated her on becoming Arizona's first female senator after a hard-fought battle," McSally said in the video, her pet golden retriever by her side. "I wish her all success as she represents Arizona in the Senate."

During her six years in Congress, Sinema built one of most centrist records in the Democratic caucus, and she voted for bills backed by Trump more than 60 percent of the time. She backed legislation increasing penalties against people in the country illegally who commit crimes.

McSally's attacks on Sinema reached back more than 15 years, when Sinema was a Green Party spokeswoman and liberal activist.

McSally backed Trump's tax cut, border security and the Affordable Care Act repeal agenda as she survived a three-way GOP primary in August, defeating two conservative challengers who claimed her support for Trump was fake. McSally also campaigned on her military record and support for the Armed Forces.

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Sinema attacked McSally's leadership of last year's failed Affordable Care Act repeal effort as a sign that she would not protect Arizona residents with preexisting medical conditions. McSally argued that she would protect patients, despite her vote on the bill that would have removed many of those protections.

The contest drew more than $90 million in spending, including more than $58 million by outside groups, according to Federal Election Commission reports. Attack ads by both sides clogged the airwaves for months.

Sinema, 42, has a law degree, worked as a social worker and was a political activist in her 20s, running as an independent Green Party candidate for the Arizona House. She then became a Democrat and served several terms in the state Legislature. Sinema started as an overt liberal but developed a reputation for compromise among her Republican peers, laying the groundwork to tack to the center.

When the 9th Congressional District was created after the 2010 Census, Sinema ran for the Phoenix-area seat as a centrist and won the 2012 election.

McSally, 52, was the first female Air Force pilot to fly in combat, flying A-10 attack jets. She also was the first woman to command a fighter squadron, again in A-10s.

McSally lost her first race in Arizona's 2nd congressional district in 2012, when she was narrowly defeated by Democratic Rep. Ron Barber, who replaced Rep. Gabby Giffords after she was wounded in a 2011 assassination attempt. But McSally came back to win the 2014 election, beating Barber by a narrow margin. She was re-elected in 2016.

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Sen. Jeff Flake
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U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) laughs with fellow subcommittee member Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) (L) at the Senate Foreign Relations' Western Hemisphere Subcommittee hearing on President Barack Obama's changes to Cuba policy in Washington February 3, 2015. REUTERS/Gary Cameron (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 19: (AFP OUT) Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) (L) and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) (R) attend a lunch with members of Congress hosted by US President Donald J. Trump (not pictured) in the State Dining Room of the White House on July 19, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Michael Reynolds - Pool/Getty Images)
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MESA, AZ - APRIL 13: U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) speaks at a town hall event as critics show their displeasure at the Mesa Convention Center on April 13, 2017 in Mesa, Arizona. It was the first such event this year for Flake, who is up for re-election in 2018, as Republican lawmakers across the country have been confronted with angry voters in similar settings. (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)
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U.S. Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) announces he will not seek re-election as he speaks on the floor of the Senate in this still image taken from video on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., October 24, 2017. REUTERS/Senate TV via
U.S. Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) faces reporters after announcing he will not run for reelection on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., October 24, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
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WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 24: Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and his wife Cheryl Flake leave the U.S. Capitol as they are trailed by reporters, October 24, 2017 in Washington, DC. Flake announced that he will not be seeking re-election and he will leave the Senate after his term ends in 14 months. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
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There's still a chance McSally becomes a senator soon. One of her political mentors, Jon Kyl, was appointed in September to fill John McCain's seat after Arizona's senior senator died following a struggle against brain cancer.

Kyl said he'd only serve through Jan. 3, which would mean the state's Republican governor, Doug Ducey, would get to select another senator. That person would run for re-election in 2020. Ducey campaigned with McSally often last month.

Flake was an outspoken critic of Trump and announced in 2017 that he would not seek re-election, acknowledging he could not win a GOP primary in the current political climate. His support of the president's initiatives, however, was mixed. He strongly backed last year's tax cut bill but criticized Trump's positions on free trade.

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