September 29, 2017 at 12:52 pm EST | by Chris Johnson
Rep. Kyrsten Sinema announces historic bid for U.S. Senate

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) has launched a bid for a U.S. Senate seat. (Photo by Gage Skidmore; courtesy Flickr)

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who made history in 2012 when she became the first openly bisexual person elected to the U.S. House, is looking to make history again by becoming the first out bisexual in the U.S. Senate.

Sinema, a three-term member of Congress representing Arizona’s 9th congressional district, announced her bid Thursday for the Democratic nomination for the seat representing Arizona in the U.S. Senate.

In a video announcing her campaign, the bisexual lawmaker acknowledged she’s “a little bit different than most people in politics.”

As she narrates the story in the video of her single mother taking care of her family and having to live three years in an abandoned gas station, Sinema says she “got by thanks to family, church and sometimes even the government.”

“So when people ask why I want to serve in the United States, well, that’s easy,” Sinema says. “I want to do more for my country. I have the chance to change things and help Arizonans everyday — whether it’s a veteran who can’t get his benefits, a widow who needs Social Security, a businessman who’s struggling with red tape or parents worried their kids won’t have a better life than they have, I get to help people solve their problems. What a privilege.”

Arizona — along with Nevada — is probably one of the Democrats’ best chances for a pickup in 2018, which could bode well for Sinema if she obtains her party’s nomination. But Sinema would also be running against Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who as an incumbent lawmaker would be difficult to unseat. (That is, of course, if Flake retains his party’s nomination. He’s facing a challenge from far-right candidates, one of whom, former State Sen. Kelli Ward, is beating him by 18 points in a recent poll.)

Elected to the U.S. Senate in 2012, Flake has been vocal in criticizing President Trump, although the Arizona Republican has voted for Trump-backed measures to repeal and replace Obamacare. In the most recent Human Rights Campaign congressional scorecard, Flake earned a score of “32” out of a possible “100.” Although in 2013 he voted in favor of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, he voted to block floor consideration of the bill and withhold his support for some time over the transgender protections in the bill.

Aisha Moodie-Mills, CEO of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, said Sinema’s run “presents an enormous opportunity for our community,” which she framed as defeating an anti-LGBT incumbent and replacing him “with an LGBTQ leader who stands for equality.”

“All of Washington is watching this matchup – including opponents of LGBTQ rights who will mobilize further now that an openly LGBTQ candidate is in the race,” Moodie-Mills said. “But Kyrsten knows Arizona politics and her constituents well, and polls show her up seven points in a matchup against Sen. Flake. It won’t be easy, but our community will rally and I am confident we can send Kyrsten to join Tammy Baldwin, doubling LGBTQ representation in the U.S. Senate. Representation is power – it changes the conversations and leads to more inclusive legislation and policies. A win for Kyrsten will be a significant victory for our community, and for LGBTQ equality.”

Sinema supports LGBT rights in the U.S. House and has a perfect “100” score from the Human Rights Campaign, but has faced criticism for not being progressive enough and not being front-and-center as a member of the LGBT community. Among her votes that disappointed some members of the LGBT community was a vote for a Republican measure in 2015 that would have blocked Syrian and Iraqi refugees — some of whom are fleeing violence because of their sexual orientation — from resettling in the United States. The votes of 47 House Democrats in favor of the bill effectively gave Republicans a win on the measure in the House.

The Democratic primary is almost a year away and set for Aug. 28. Other Democrats seeking the nomination are Deedra Abboud, a Phoenix attorney and community activist; Jim Moss, a businessman and former public school teacher; and Chris Russell, a former member of the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General Corps.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) wasted no time on Friday in endorsing Sinema over the other Democrats in the race on behalf of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

“At every turn, Kyrsten Sinema has put Arizona first: Fighting to improve the VA and standing up for veterans and military families, protecting seniors and working to make college more affordable – all by crossing the aisle to get results, ” It’s not always easy to get things done, but Kyrsten knows how much we can achieve with hard work. It’s how she tackled the challenges of growing up homeless and is committed to making sure Arizona families get the fair shot she did. We are proud to endorse her.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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