Kyrsten Sinema

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Kyrsten Sinema
Kyrsten Sinema 113th Congress.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Arizona's 9th district
Assumed office
January 3, 2013
Preceded by Constituency established
Member of the Arizona Senate
from the 15th district
In office
January 10, 2011 – January 3, 2012
Preceded by Ken Cheuvront
Succeeded by David Lujan
Member of the Arizona House of Representatives
from the 15th district
In office
January 10, 2005 – January 10, 2011
Preceded by Wally Straughn
Ken Clark
Succeeded by Lela Alston
Katie Hobbs
Personal details
Born (1976-07-12) July 12, 1976 (age 39)
Tucson, Arizona, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Alma mater Brigham Young University, Utah
Arizona State University
Website House website

Kyrsten Sinema (born July 12, 1976)[1] is an American politician and the U.S. Representative from Arizona's 9th congressional district, first elected in 2012. A member of the Democratic Party, prior to being elected she served in both chambers of the Arizona legislature, being elected to the Arizona House of Representatives in 2005, and the Arizona Senate in 2011.

Sinema has worked for the adoption of the DREAM Act and has campaigned against Propositions 107 and 102, two voter referendums to ban the recognition of same-sex marriage and civil unions in Arizona. Initially noted for her "liberal record," she has since moved towards the center and "carved a more bipartisan path."[2][3][4]

She is the first openly bisexual person elected to the U.S. Congress.[3][5] Although some sources have reported her to be an atheist, she does not identify as one, preferring instead to eschew religious labels altogether.[6]

Early life, education, early career[edit]

Sinema was born in Tucson, Arizona, in 1976. Her parents divorced when she was a child. When her stepfather lost his job, the family lived for two years in an abandoned gas station with no running water or electricity.[7]

She graduated as high school valedictorian at age 16 and went on to earn her B.A. from Brigham Young University in 1995 at age 18.[7] Sinema received her Master of Social Work from Arizona State University in 1999. In 2004, she earned a J.D. from Arizona State University College of Law. In 2012, she earned a Ph.D. in Justice Studies, also from Arizona State.[7][8]

Sinema was a social worker from 1995 to 2002. In 2000, Sinema worked on Ralph Nader's presidential campaign.[2] She also practiced law in the Washington Elementary School District[9] She served as an adjunct Business Law Professor at Arizona Summit Law School, formerly known as Phoenix School of Law. Sinema became a criminal defense lawyer in 2005.[7][9] Sinema has also been an adjunct instructor in the Arizona State University School of Social Work since 2003.[10]

Arizona legislature[edit]

Sinema walking up stairs and smiling to the camera
Sinema in 2009
Sinema in 2010


Sinema first ran for the Arizona House of Representatives in 2002, as an independent affiliated with the Arizona Green Party.[11] She finished in last place in a five candidate field, receiving 8% of the vote.[12]

In 2004, Sinema won the Democratic primary for Arizona's 15th District, where she won the highest margin of votes with 37%. David Lujan also won election with 34% (there are two seats in each District).[13] Sinema was subsequently re-elected three times with over 30% of the vote.[14][15][16] In 2009 and 2010, Sinema was an assistant Minority Leader for the Democratic Caucus of the Arizona House of Representatives.[17]

In 2010, Sinema was elected to the Arizona Senate, defeating Republican Bob Thomas 63–37%.[18]


In 2005 and 2006, she was named the Sierra Club's Most Valuable Player. She also won the 2006 Planned Parenthood CHOICE Award, 2006 Legislator of the Year Award from both the Arizona Public Health Association and the National Association of Social Workers, 2006 Legislative Hero Award from the Arizona League of Conservation Voters, and the 2005 Stonewall Democrats' Legislator of the Year Award. In 2010, she was named one of Time Magazine's "40 Under 40".[19]

In 2006, Sinema sponsored a bill urging the adoption of the DREAM Act.[20] Also in 2006 she co-chaired Arizona Together, the statewide campaign that defeated Proposition 107 (which would have banned the recognition of same-sex marriage and civil unions in Arizona).[21] Speaking to a now-defunct fashion/lifestyle magazine in 2006, Sinema was asked about "new feminism", and responded, "These women who act like staying at home, leeching off their husbands or boyfriends, and just cashing the checks is some sort of feminism because they're choosing to live that life." After dealing with criticism, Sinema apologized and said the remarks were intended to be a "light-hearted spoof".[22]

In 2008, Sinema led the campaign against Proposition 102, another referendum which would have banned the recognition of same-sex marriage and civil unions in Arizona. Proposition 102 was approved with 56% of the vote in the general election on November 4, 2008. Sinema chaired a coalition called Protect Arizona's Freedom, which defeated Ward Connerly's goal to place an initiative on the state ballot that would eliminate equal opportunity programs.[23]

In 2010, she sponsored a bill to give in-state tuition to veterans.[24] The Center for Inquiry presented Sinema its Award for the Advancement of Science and Reason in Public Policy in 2011.[25]

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]



In June 2011, Sinema said she was considering running for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012. She lived in the same neighborhood as fellow Democrat Ed Pastor, but was adamant that she would not challenge another Democrat in a primary.[26] On January 3, 2012, Sinema announced her bid for Congress, in the 9th congressional district.[27] The district had previously been the 5th, represented by freshman Republican David Schweikert; it contains 60 percent of the old 5th's territory.[28] Schweikert had been drawn into the 6th District—the old 3rd District—and sought reelection there.

Although Sinema was not required to resign her state senate seat under Arizona's resign-to-run laws (since she was in the final year of her term), she did so on the same day that she announced her candidacy. On August 28, 2012, Sinema won the Democratic primary with 42% of the vote, defeating former Arizona Democratic Party chairman Andrei Cherny, a former speechwriter in the Clinton administration, and state Senator David Schapira.[7][29][30]

In the general election Sinema ran against Republican nominee Vernon Parker, the former Mayor of Paradise Valley.[7] Sinema was endorsed by the Arizona Republic.[7] The campaign was described as a "nasty",[31] "bitterly fought race that featured millions of dollars in attack ads".[32] Parker ran campaign ads that accused Sinema of being an "anti-American hippie" who practiced "Pagan rituals".[33] The Republican-aligned outside group American Future Fund spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on attack ads against Sinema.[34] When Sinema's religious views were raised as an issue, her campaign stated that she simply believes in a secular approach to government.[6]

The November 6 election was initially too close to call, because Arizona election authorities failed to count more than 25% of the votes on election day.[35] Sinema held a narrow lead over Parker, while provisional and absentee ballots were still being counted.[36][37] However, on November 12, when it was apparent that Sinema's lead was too large for Parker to overcome, the Associated Press called the race for Sinema.[38] Once all ballots were counted, Sinema won by 4.1 percentage points, or 10,000 votes.[39] When she took office on January 3, 2013, she became only the second Anglo Democrat to represent the Valley of the Sun in almost two decades.


Sinema ran for reelection in 2014, and was unopposed in the Democratic primary, which took place on August 26, 2014. She faced Republican Wendy Rogers in the general election.[40][41]

According to Roll Call, Sinema billed herself as bipartisan. This is seen as a response to her district's voting pattern. It was drawn as a swing district, and voted for President Obama by just 4 points in 2012.[2] In September 2014, she was endorsed for re-election by the United States Chamber of Commerce, becoming one of five Democrats to be endorsed by the Chamber in the 2014 congressional election cycle.[42]


According to National Journal's 2013 Vote Ratings, Sinema's votes place her near the center of their liberal-conservative scale.[43] In early 2014, Sinema joined the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of moderate Democrats who work with moderate Republicans to craft bipartisan policy.[44] On February 16, 2013, she announced she was part of an emerging effort, called the United Solutions Caucus, to end partisan gridlock in Congress.[45] This group of 32 freshman Republicans and Democrats was formed with the stated principles of strengthening and preserving Social Security and Medicare, promoting economic growth to generate revenue, cutting spending, and pursuing Medicaid waste, fraud, and abuse.[46]


On June 16, 2013, Sinema became an original cosponsor of the bipartisan LIBERT-E Act, along with Rep. Justin Amash, which limits the National Security Agency to only collecting electronic information from subjects of an investigation.[47]

On July 24, 2013, Sinema joined a bipartisan majority and voted against an amendment to a defense appropriations bill to prohibit the National Security Agency from monitoring and recording details of US citizens' telecommunications without a warrant.[48] She later explained her vote against the amendment by saying, “I, along with my colleagues in the House, was given assurances by the intelligence community that abuses did not occur intentionally or regularly, were quickly resolved, and were fully reported. I voted against the well-intentioned but overly broad Amash amendment to the Defense Appropriations Act in part because of these assurances, and due to my belief that we must strike a thoughtful balance that protects both our constitutional liberties and our security.”[49]

Healthcare policy[edit]

Sinema voted against repealing the Affordable Care Act.[50] Sinema has called for reforms to the law.[51] She has said that the health care law isn't perfect, and that in Congress she will work to amend the law to make it work effectively.[52]

Sinema has voted to delay the initiation of fines on those who don’t purchase insurance in 2014. She has also voted to repeal the Medical Device Tax and for the Keep Your Health Plan Act of 2013.[53][54][55]

Speaking about healthcare policy, Sinema said, "I used to say that I wanted universal health-care coverage in Arizona, which went over like a ton of bricks. Turns out, Arizonans hear the word "universal" and think "socialism"—or "pinko commie." But when I say that I want all Arizonans to have access to affordable, quality health care, Arizonans agree wholeheartedly. Same basic idea, different language."[56]

Foreign policy[edit]

After the September 11 attacks on the United States, Sinema was involved in organizing a Phoenix-area group called the Arizona Alliance for Peaceful Justice (AAPJ). According to The Hill, "The group’s mission statement at the time called military action 'an inappropriate response to terrorism' and advocated for using the legal system — not violence — to bring Osama bin Laden and others to justice." Sinema wrote: "As one of the core organizers against the war from day one (September 12, 2011), I have always and will always continue to oppose war in all its forms."[57]

Sinema has advocated against the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and has helped form several groups that oppose the U.S.-Israel alliance. The AAPJ, which Sinema co-founded, has denounced Israel’s “disproportionate” use of “violence and oppression,” decried U.S. military aid to Israel, and protested the expansion of Israeli settlements “into Palestinian lands.” Sinema's activism and views regarding Israel have been criticized by Republicans and Democrats, including Jay Goodlik, a former Special Assistant to Bill Clinton.[57][58][59][60] Sinema is a former spokesperson for Women in Black, an anti-war group that was founded in part to support Palestinians during the Intifada.[58][61] She supports reducing defense spending.[62]


Sinema favors an income tax increase on the wealthy over cutting services. She has voted in support of federal stimulus spending.[62] She has said: "Raising taxes is more economically sound than cutting vital social services."[63]


Sinema supports abortion rights. She has been endorsed by EMILY's List.[62]

Gun rights[edit]

Sinema supports gun control.[62]


A woman in her thirties with fairly short blond hair, wearing sunglasses and a beige and pink top, is surrounded by a crowd.
State Representative Kyrsten Sinema attending a protest at the Arizona State Capitol on the day of the SB 1070's signing

Sinema opposed Arizona SB 1070. Sinema argues that mass deportation of illegal immigrants is not an option and supported the DREAM Act. Sinema believes that "we need to create a tough but fair path to citizenship for undocumented workers that requires them to get right with the law by paying back taxes, paying a fine and learning English as a condition of gaining citizenship." [64]


Sinema voted for the SAFE Act, which expanded the refugee screening process to require signatures from the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Director of National Intelligence for each refugee entering the country.[65][66]

Committee assignments[edit]

Electoral history[edit]


Arizona's 15th Senate District election, 2010[67]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Kyrsten Sinema 18,013 62.82%
Republican Bob Thomas 10,663 37.18%
Turnout 28,676
Democratic hold Swing


Arizona's 9th congressional district election, 2012[68]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Kyrsten Sinema 121,881 48.73%
Republican Vernon Parker 111,630 44.63%
Libertarian Powell E. Gammill 16,620 6.64%
Turnout 250,131
Democratic hold Swing


Arizona’s 9th congressional district election, 2014[69]
Party Candidate Votes %
Democratic Kyrsten Sinema (Incumbent) 88,609 54.60
Republican Wendy Rogers 67,841 41.81
Libertarian Powell Gammill 5,612 3.46
Write-ins 211 0.13
Total votes 162,273 100
Democratic hold


On November 17, 2013, Sinema completed an Ironman Triathlon in a little more than 15 hours. According to Politico, Sinema was the second active member of Congress—behind Senator Jeff Merkley—to finish an Ironman; although several sources, such as Triathlete Magazine, consider Sinema the first, since Merkley completed a non-Ironman-branded race.[70] On December 25, 2013, Sinema summited Mount Kilimanjaro.[71]

Sinema was raised as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but left after graduating from BYU.[72]


  1. ^ "Phoenix Arizona Election Questionnaire for Congress, KYRSTEN SINEMA". The Arizona Republic. Retrieved 29 April 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c Shira T. Center (12 August 2014). "Freshman Congresswoman Moves to the Middle". Roll Call. Retrieved 29 August 2014. 
  3. ^ a b Roig-Franzia, Manuel (January 2, 2013). "Kyrsten Sinema: A success story like nobody else's". The Washington Post (Phoenix, Arizona). Retrieved January 8, 2013. 
  4. ^ Rebekah L. Sanders (February 9, 2014). "Can Rep. Kyrsten Sinema be beat in 2014?". AZ Central. Retrieved August 30, 2014. 
  5. ^ O'Dowd, Peter (January 1, 2013). "Sinema, First Openly Bisexual Member Of Congress, Represents 'Changing Arizona'". NPR. Retrieved January 8, 2013. 
  6. ^ a b Oppenheimer, Mark (November 9, 2012). "Politicians Who Reject Labels Based on Religion". The New York Times. Retrieved November 28, 2012.  Sinema's campaign stated that "the terms non-theist, atheist or nonbeliever are not befitting of her life's work or personal character".
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Kyrsten Sinema, Arizona District 9,; accessed June 7, 2014.
  8. ^ "Project Vote Smart: Rep. Kyrsten Sinema". Retrieved June 1, 2008. 
  9. ^ a b "Sinema biodata". Retrieved June 1, 2008. 
  10. ^ "ASU Directory Profile: Kyrsten Sinema". November 15, 2007. Retrieved September 1, 2012. 
  11. ^ Winger, Richard (November 13, 2012). "Kyrsten Sinema, Newly-Elected Arizona Congresswoman, Was Once a Green Party Nominee for Arizona Legislature". Ballot Access News. Retrieved November 21, 2012. 
  12. ^ "Election Summary". Retrieved November 21, 2012. 
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  19. ^ "40 Under 40". Time Magazine. October 19, 2010. Retrieved October 19, 2010. 
  20. ^ "Documents For Bill". Retrieved September 1, 2012. 
  21. ^ "Straight couples pivotal in gay marriage fight". The Arizona Republic. November 9, 2006. Retrieved June 1, 2008. 
  22. ^ Fischer, Howard (October 27, 2006). "Gay marriage debate sparks a feminism battle". East Valley Tribune. Retrieved November 15, 2012. 
  23. ^ "Member Page". Retrieved September 1, 2012. 
  24. ^ "Documents For Bill". Retrieved September 1, 2012. 
  25. ^ "Sen. Sinema to Receive Award from CFI for Advancement of Science and Reason in Public Policy" (Press release). Center for Inquiry. March 9, 2011. Retrieved November 7, 2012. 
  26. ^ Trygstad, Kyle (June 9, 2011). "Arizona State Senator Interested in House Bid". Roll Call. Retrieved October 4, 2011. 
  27. ^ Garcia, Michelle (January 4, 2012). "Bi Politician Announces Congressional Bid". The Advocate. Retrieved January 8, 2012. 
  28. ^ Arizona Redistricting: Commission releases draft map. Daily Kos, October 4, 2011
  29. ^ González, Daniel (August 28, 2012). "Sinema, Parker win in Congressional District 9". Arizona Republic. 
  30. ^ "November 2012 Election Results". Retrieved November 8, 2012. 
  31. ^ Dann, Carrie Ten fresh faces to watch in the new Congress, NBC News (December 4, 2012).
  32. ^ Jim Cross, Sinema beats Parker in Arizona's CD9 race, KTAR (November 12, 2012).
  33. ^ David Mendez, From Far, Far Out There in Phoenix: Vernon Parker Says Kyrsten Sinema Is A Pagan Hippie, Tucson Weekly (October 16, 2012); Matthew Hendley, Kyrsten Sinema Doesn't Like America, but Loves Flower Power, According to Vernon Parker Ad, Phoenix New Times (October 16, 2012).
  34. ^ Tim Vetscher, Fact Check: AFF's TV ad attacking Kyrsten Sinema, KNXV-TV (ABC 15) (September 24, 2012); Andrew Sullivan, Ad War Update: Obama Wants To Engulf Your Children In Flames (September 19, 2012)
  35. ^ Reinhart, Mary K. (August 28, 2012). "Ballot count goes on in Arizona". Arizona Republic. 
  36. ^ "Democrat Kyrsten Sinema beats GOP's Vernon Parker in Arizona's 9th Congressional District". The Washington Post, November 12, 2012.
  37. ^ "Kyrsten Sinema Election Results: Arizona Democrat Beats Vernon Parker In Congressional Race". Huffington Post, November 12, 2012.
  38. ^ "Kyrsten Sinema Becomes First Openly Bisexual Member of Congress". ABC News. November 12, 2012. 
  39. ^ "General Election Results". Arizona Secretary of State's Office. Retrieved November 24, 2012. 
  40. ^ "Arizona's 9th Congressional District elections, 2014". Ballotpedia. Retrieved March 19, 2014. 
  41. ^ Jaffe, Alexandra (2014-08-27). "GOP nominates former Air Force Lt. Col. to take on Sinema". The Hill. Retrieved 28 August 2014. 
  42. ^ "How the Tea Party Is Causing Big Business to Back Democrats". Mother Jones. September 15, 2014. Retrieved September 20, 2014. 
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  50. ^ "GovTrack". Retrieved March 28, 2014. 
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  57. ^ a b Lederman, Josh (February 5, 2012). "Candidate's stance on Afghan, Iraq wars faces scrutiny in Democratic primary". The Hill. Retrieved March 19, 2014. 
  58. ^ a b Kredo, Adam (2012-04-20). "Adult Sinema". Washington Free Beacon. Retrieved February 14, 2015. 
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  60. ^ Goodman, Alana (2012-07-23). "The Reinvention of an Anti-War Activist". Commentary Magazine. Retrieved March 19, 2014. 
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  63. ^ "Bio Questions". Arizona Republic. Retrieved March 20, 2014. 
  64. ^
  65. ^ Sanders, Rebekah. "Kyrsten Sinema's surprising vote on Syrian refugees". azcentral. Retrieved 22 November 2015. 
  66. ^ "H.R.4038 - American SAFE Act of 2015". Retrieved 22 November 2015. 
  67. ^ "State of Arizona Official Canvass" (PDF). November 29, 2010. Retrieved January 4, 2013. 
  68. ^ "State of Arizona Official Canvass" (PDF). December 3, 2012. Retrieved January 4, 2013. 
  69. ^ "General Elections". Secretary of State. 2014-11-04. Retrieved 2014-11-20. 
  70. ^ Kopan, Tal. "Rep. Kyrsten Sinema finishes Ironman". Politico. Retrieved December 4, 2013. 
  71. ^ "U.S. Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema Summits with Ultimate Kilimanjaro"
  72. ^ Roig-Franzia, Manuel. "Congress' first openly bisexual member grew up Mormon, graduated from BYU". Standard Examiner. Retrieved 22 November 2015. 

External links[edit]

United States House of Representatives
New constituency Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Arizona's 9th congressional district

United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Raul Ruiz
United States Representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
Chris Stewart