Kyrsten Sinema, Martha McSally win primary elections for Senate seat

Aug 28, 2018, 8:24 PM | Updated: 11:17 pm
U.S. Senate candidates Kyrsten Sinema, left, and Martha McSally will face off in a debate Oct. 15....
U.S. Senate candidates Kyrsten Sinema, left, and Martha McSally will face off in a debate Oct. 15.

PHOENIX — A woman will serve as U.S. Senator for the first time in Arizona’s 106-year history.

Voters elected U.S. Reps. Kyrsten Sinema and Martha McSally to represent the Democratic and Republican parties, respectively, in the November general election.

Sinema took home more than 82 percent of the Democratic vote, while McSally’s lead was a little tighter, at 51 percent.

The primary election on Tuesday was the end of a months-long campaign season to fill the seat for U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, who announced last year that he would not seek re-election.

Deedra Abboud was also in the running for the Democratic Party seat, while the highly-contested Republican Party seat was also sought out by former state Sen. Kelli Ward and former Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

President Donald Trump praised McSally in a tweet on Tuesday, calling her a “highly respected member of Congress.”

But Flake shot back at Trump, claiming that he did not endorse McSally in the race for his seat. He said his last endorsement was in the Alabama Senate race, when he donated $100 to Democrat Doug Jones in his race with accused child molester Roy Moore.

The campaign season between the Republican candidates was long, divisive and, at times, just downright ugly.

McSally, who was poised early on to be the party’s nominee, aligned herself with Trump from the start of her campaign, despite calling him “disgusting” two years ago after a tape of Trump allegedly admitting to sexual assault surfaced. Trump did not formally endorse anyone in the race, although he had praised all the Republican candidates in the past.

Arpaio, who was pardoned by Trump last year after being found in criminal contempt of court for continuing his immigration sweeps for 17 months after a judge ordered him to stop, found himself embroiled in a new batch of controversy. The former Maricopa County sheriff was featured in a satirical show from comedian Sasha Baron Cohen, of “Borat” fame, where he was seen discussing gun control with a toy donut.

But Ward dominated headlines leading up to the primary. She first sparked controversy last year for saying that late U.S. Sen. John McCain should step down from the Senate after his brain cancer diagnosis. In recent weeks, she was seen campaigning with Mike Cernovich, the alt-right blogger and conspiracy theorist who was most well-known for igniting the flame behind Pizzagate. Ward, who also aligned herself to Trump, also claimed that McCain’s announcement that he was stopping cancer treatment was timed in order to hurt her chances at winning the primary.

Ward apologized Monday, saying she was bemoaning media coverage rather than the family’s announcement.

“I do understand how many could have misconstrued my comments as insensitive, and for this I apologize,” Ward said.

Now Sinema will continue to campaign until Nov. 6, when voters in Arizona will pick their representative.

Sinema’s and McSally’s Senate runs also have created House openings in Arizona, a fast-growing and increasingly diverse state where Democrats are eager to gain a foothold. McSally’s district in particular is expected to be one of the most competitive House races in November’s general election.

Ann Kirkpatrick won her Democratic nomination in Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District on Tuesday. The Republican primary, which was being contested by Brandon Martin and Lea Marquez Peterson, had not been called.

Former Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton was elected to the Democratic Party for Arizona’s 9th congressional district, which was previously held by Sinema, on Tuesday. He will face off with Republican Stephen Ferrara in the general election.

Despite the fact that Arizona has historically been known as a Republican state, with Trump carrying the state with 91,000 votes in 2016, a June poll showed Sinema beating all of her Republican rivals in head-to-head match-ups. The CBS poll showed Sinema beating McSally, 41 percent to 34 percent.

If she is elected, Sinema will be the first Democrat elected to the Senate since 1988.

The seat is considered a key pickup for Democrats in their bid to take control of the chamber, meaning the general election will be among the closest-watched races in the nation between now and November. Television ads have already bombarded Arizonans throughout the summer months, and a competitive general election is likely to draw in millions of dollars in outside spending.

Arizona’s other Senate seat, which was filled by McCain, will not be elected on until 2020. Gov. Doug Ducey will be tasked with appointing the senior senator’s replacement, but has said that he will not do so until McCain is laid to rest later this week.

For results and reaction, listen to KTAR News 92.3 FM’s primary roundtable program Tuesday from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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Kyrsten Sinema, Martha McSally win primary elections for Senate seat