Arizona state Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D) is strongly considering a bid for Congress next year and could help Democrats make inroads in a state where they lost two seats last cycle.
However, Sinema won’t know which House district she would compete in until an independent redistricting commission produces a map this year. Although Democrats are searching for a candidate to compete in the Senate race, Sinema has ruled out that possibility.
Sinema has represented central Phoenix in the state Legislature since 2004, serving three terms in the state House before being elected to the state Senate last year.
A lawyer and adjunct professor, she lives in the same neighborhood as Rep. Ed Pastor (D) but said she would not challenge an incumbent Democrat in a primary. Because of recent Democratic losses and the new district that Arizona will gain through reapportionment, that shouldn’t be a problem.
In an interview Thursday with Roll Call, Sinema said she has been in touch with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee since December and worked with EMILY’s List for several years. She added that Arizona has the fastest-growing unemployment rate in the country and said Congress needs to work across the aisle to turn around the ailing economy.
Although Arizona state legislators do not raise money for campaigns under state elections law, Sinema has fundraising experience: She raised $2.5 million in 2006 to help defeat an effort to ban same-sex marriages in Arizona.
Born to conservative Republican parents in Tucson, Sinema, 34, is openly bisexual. She graduated from Brigham Young University at the age of 18, and after working for a nongovernmental organization in Kenya, she moved to Phoenix to work as a public school social worker. She went on to earn a master’s degree in social work and later a law degree, both from Arizona State University.
Sinema was elected to the state House in 2004, three weeks before earning her law degree, and she is currently working toward a doctorate. When she met with Roll Call on Thursday in Washington, D.C., Sinema had recently returned from running a marathon in Rwanda, a country that is the focus of her dissertation.
If Sinema runs for Congress, she said an announcement would likely come in the last three months of this year. “If I do decide to run, I will resign,” she said, referring to the state’s resign-to-run law.
Terri Henderson, 6, center, whose mother is El Salvador, attends a rally with members of Congress at Union Station's Columbus Circle to announce the Restore Opportunity, Strengthen, and Improve the Economy (ROSIE) Act on July 29, 2014. The legislation provides incentives for government contractors to pay a living wage and other benefits that would help low-income workers.