The Arizona senator was recently sworn in and identifies as a conservative Democrat.
Kyrsten Sinema was elected to the United States Senate in January of this year, beginning her term as a senator for Arizona. A member of the Democratic Party, Sinema defeated her Republican opponent Martha McSally in a narrow race. However, Sinema will still serve as a senator alongside McSally, as she was appointed to take the place of Jon Kyl, the temporary fill-in for the late John McCain. Both Sinema and McSally have made history as the first female senators to represent Arizona.
Sinema started her political career as a spokesperson for the Green Party, but she has been affiliated with the Democratic Party since 2004. Sinema quickly rose in popularity and gained widespread support in Arizona as a relatively conservative Democrat who appealed to voters across party lines. In 2013, she was elected to represent Arizona’s 9th Congressional District in the House of Representatives, where she served until her recent victory in the Senate race.
As a child, Sinema was homeless for three years and has been outspoken about her past being a factor that sets her apart from other congresspeople. Her sexuality became public knowledge in 2005 when she argued against a Republican colleague’s comment about LGBTQ+ people while using the first person. When questioned about this, she responded, “Duh, I’m bisexual.” In spite of being questioned about how her sexuality affects her political career, Sinema has refused to speak on it. Rather, when asked about her personal life, she has responded, “I don’t really think that’s any of your business. Not a lot of people ask young men in politics [about their sexuality].”
Sinema’s casual attitude toward her sexuality’s landmark status in the history of the U.S. Senate is remarkable considering the fact that there are only ten openly LGBTQ+ members of Congress serving today. Jared Polis, currently representing Colorado, was the first openly gay person to be elected to Congress and only came into office in 2009. Tammy Baldwin was the first openly gay member of the Senate and began her term in 2012. Although there have been several people outed after or during their times in office, the 21st century has ushered in more instances in which politicians have been open about their sexuality before elections.
Although she was once affiliated with the Green Party and was outspoken about her liberal beliefs, Sinema has moved toward a more centrist platform in recent years. In the early 2000s, she became a new face in Arizona politics as an organizer of antiwar protests after 9/11 and a proponent for the repeal of the death penalty. Today, she is affiliated with the Blue Dog Caucus, a conservative Democratic group.
During her time in the House of Representatives, Sinema’s voting record reflected her increasingly moderate positions. She voted in favor of legislation for issues such as increased screening processes for refugees and greater penalties for people illegally entering the country. She has stated that she does not support the Affordable Care Act and universal healthcare and chose not to endorse David Garcia, her party’s candidate in the Arizona gubernatorial race.