|United States Senator-elect|
January 3, 2019
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Arizona's 9th district
|Assumed office |
January 3, 2013
|Preceded by||Constituency established|
|Succeeded by||Greg Stanton (elect)|
|Member of the Arizona Senate|
from the 15th district
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
January 10, 2005 – January 10, 2011
Serving with David Lujan
|Preceded by||Wally Straughn|
|Succeeded by||Lela Alston|
Kyrsten Lea Sinema
July 12, 1976
Tucson, Arizona, U.S.
|Political party||Democratic (2004–present)|
|Independent (before 2004)|
|Education||Brigham Young University (BA)|
Arizona State University (MSW, JD, PhD)
Kyrsten Lea Sinema (/
Sinema began her political career as an activist for the Green Party before joining the Arizona Democratic Party in 2004. In the 2012 elections, she was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, becoming the first openly bisexual member of Congress in the history of the United States.
After her election to Congress, she shifted toward the political center, joining the conservative Democratic Blue Dog Coalition and the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus and amassing a center-left to centrist voting record. Sinema worked for the adoption of the DREAM Act and campaigned against Propositions 107 and 102, two voter referendums to ban the recognition of same-sex marriage and civil unions in Arizona.
Sinema won the Arizona Senate election in 2018 to replace retiring Senator Jeff Flake, defeating Republican nominee Martha McSally. Sinema's victory made her the first female Senator-elect from Arizona and the first openly bisexual person to win a U.S. Senate seat, as well as the first Democrat to be elected to the Senate from Arizona since Dennis DeConcini in 1988.
- 1 Early life, education and private career
- 2 Arizona State Legislature
- 3 U.S. House of Representatives
- 4 U.S. Senate
- 5 Political positions
- 6 Personal life
- 7 Electoral history
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Early life, education and private career
Kyrsten Sinema was born in Tucson, Arizona, in 1976 to Marilyn and Dan Sinema. She is of Frisian descent and her patrilineal line can be traced back up 19 generations to Sywvol Zennema who was born in the village of Heeg, Netherlands in 1425. Her great-great-grandfather Lieuwe Jacobs Sinnema (1863–1941) emigrated at a young age with his father Jacob Jans Sinnema (1830–1903) to the United States in 1867 from the village of Bitgum, in the Dutch province of Friesland. They initially moved to Sioux City, Iowa, and later her great-great-grandfather settled in Twin Falls, Idaho, where her great-grandfather Jacob Sinema (1892–1963) and grandfather Gerald Sinema (1929–) were brought up. Her grandfather relocated to Phoenix, Arizona, where her father, Dan Sinema, was born in 1949.
Kyrsten has two siblings, an older brother and younger sister. Her father was an attorney. Her parents divorced when she was a child and her mother, who had custody of the children, remarried. With her siblings, mother, and stepfather, Sinema moved to DeFuniak Springs, Florida, a small town in the Panhandle. When her stepfather lost his job and the bank foreclosed on their home, the family lived for three years in a remodeled gas station. Sinema has said that for two years they had no toilet or electricity while living there. She later recalled, "My stepdad built a bunk bed for me and my sister. We separated our bunk bed from the kitchen with one of those big chalkboards on rollers. I knew that was weird. A chalkboard shouldn't be a wall. A kitchen should have running water." Sinema was raised as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. According to journalist Jonathan Martin in The New York Times, Sinema has given "contradictory answers about her early life", and Sinema's mother and stepfather had filed court documents saying they had made monthly payments for gas, electricity, and phone bills, even though Sinema had said they had been "without running water or electricity". Asked whether she had embellished details from her childhood, Sinema said, "I've shared what I remember from my childhood. I know what I lived through."
Sinema graduated as valedictorian from Walton High School at age 16 and went on to earn her B.A. from BYU in 1995 at age 18. She left the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after graduating from BYU. Sinema received her Master of Social Work degree from Arizona State University in 1999. In 2004, she earned a J.D. degree from Arizona State University College of Law. In 2012, she earned a Ph.D. degree in Justice Studies, also from Arizona State.
Sinema was a social worker from 1995 to 2002. In 2000, she worked on Ralph Nader's presidential campaign. She worked as a social worker in the Washington Elementary School District (in the Phoenix metropolitan area). She was 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. She has also been an adjunct instructor teaching Master's-level policy and grant-writing classes at Arizona State University School of Social Work since 2003.
In 2002, The Arizona Republic published a letter from Sinema criticizing capitalism. "Until the average American realizes that capitalism damages her livelihood while augmenting the livelihoods of the wealthy, the Almighty Dollar will continue to rule", she wrote.
- Sinema, Kyrsten (2009). Unite and Conquer: How to Build Coalitions That Win and Last. Berrett-Koehler Publishers. ISBN 9781605090054.
- Sinema, Kyrsten (2015). Who Must Die in Rwanda's Genocide?: The State of Exception Realized. Lexington Books. ISBN 9781498518659.
Arizona State Legislature
Sinema first ran for the Arizona House of Representatives in 2002, as an independent affiliated with the Arizona Green Party. She finished in last place in a five-candidate field, receiving 8% of the vote.
In 2004, Sinema and David Lujan won the Democratic primaries for Arizona's 15th district, with 37 per cent of the vote for Sinema and 34 per cent for Lujan over incumbent representative Wally Straughn. Sinema was subsequently reelected three times with over 30% of the vote. In 2009 and 2010, Sinema was an assistant Minority Leader for the Democratic Caucus of the Arizona House of Representatives.
According to Elle, "her first public comment as an elected official came in 2005, after a Republican colleague's speech insulted LGBT people. 'We're simply people like everyone else who want and deserve respect', she passionately declared. Later, when reporters asked about her use of the first person, Sinema replied, 'Duh, I'm bisexual.'"
In 2006, Sinema sponsored a bill urging the adoption of the DREAM Act. 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. (In 2008 a similar referendum, Proposition 102, passed.) Speaking to a 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. That's bullshit. I mean, what the fuck are we really talking about here?'" After facing criticism, Sinema apologized and said the interview format was intended to be a "light-hearted spoof". "I was raised by a stay-at-home mom," she said. "So, she did a pretty good job with me."
In 2008, Sinema led the campaign against Proposition 102, another referendum that would have banned the recognition of same-sex marriage 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.
In June 2009, Sinema was one of 32 state legislators appointed by President Barack Obama to the White House Health Reform Task Force, which helped shape the Affordable Care Act. "Thanks in part to her hard work in improving the bill", Sinema was invited to attend the Obamacare bill signing at the White House in March 2010.
In 2010, she sponsored a bill to give in-state tuition to veterans; it was held in committee and did not receive a vote.
U.S. House of Representatives
In June 2011, Sinema said she was considering running for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012. She lived in the same Phoenix neighborhood as incumbent Democratic congressman Ed Pastor, but was adamant that she would not challenge another Democrat in a primary. On January 3, 2012, Sinema announced her bid for Congress, in the 9th congressional district. The district had previously been the 5th, represented by freshman Republican David Schweikert; it contains 60% of the old 5th's territory. 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 three-way Democratic primary with nearly 42% of the vote. Her opponents, state Senator David Schapira and former Arizona Democratic Party chairman Andrei Cherny, a former speechwriter in the Clinton administration, each finished with less than 30% of the vote.
In the general election, Sinema ran against Republican nominee Vernon Parker, the former mayor of Paradise Valley. Sinema was endorsed by The Arizona Republic. The campaign was described as a "nasty", "bitterly fought race that featured millions of dollars in attack ads". Parker ran campaign ads that accused Sinema of being an "anti-American hippie" who practiced "Pagan rituals". The Republican-aligned outside group American Future Fund spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on attack ads against Sinema. When Sinema's religious views were raised as an issue, her campaign stated that she simply believes in a secular approach to government.
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. Sinema held a narrow lead over Parker, while provisional and absentee ballots were still being counted. 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. Once all ballots were counted, Sinema won by 4.1 percentage points, over 10,000 votes. Libertarian Powell Gammill finished third with 6.64% of the votes. When she took office on January 3, 2013, she became only the second Anglo Democrat to represent the Valley of the Sun in over three decades. The first, Harry Mitchell, occupied the seat Sinema now holds from 2007 to 2011.
According to Roll Call, Sinema billed herself as bipartisan. This was seen as a response to her district's voting pattern. It was drawn as a "fair-fight" district, and voted for President Barack Obama by just 4 points in 2012. In September 2014, she was endorsed for reelection by the United States Chamber of Commerce, becoming one of five Democrats to be endorsed by the Chamber in the 2014 congressional election cycle. She was reelected with approximately 55% of the vote, beating GOP nominee Wendy Rogers by 13 points.
Unopposed in her primary, Sinema won the general election with 60.9% of the vote. Her opponent, Republican nominee Dave Giles, received 39%.
- Committee on Financial Services
- New Democrat Coalition
- Congressional Arts Caucus
- Veterinary Medicine Caucus
- Blue Dog Coalition
- Problem Solvers Caucus
In March 2018, Sinema donated to charity $33,800 in campaign contributions she had received from Ed Buck, a prominent Democratic donor who came under scrutiny after a homeless escort died of a drug overdose at his California home in 2017. She had previously donated to charity $53,400 in campaign contributions from people with ties to Backpage, a website that was seized by the United States Department of Justice after it was accused of knowingly accepting ads for sex with underage girls.
During the 2018 campaign, Sinema refused to debate her competitor in the Democratic primary, Deedra Abboud, an attorney and community activist. Sinema won the August Democratic primary for the Senate seat. Her Republican opponent in the general election was fellow Arizona U.S. Representative Martha McSally. She received the endorsement of the Human Rights Campaign.
While Abboud said she would vote against the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, Sinema "said she wanted to delve deeper into Kavanaugh's writings and interview him personally before deciding". She said she was "running on the issues people care about most, including offering quality, affordable health care and promoting economic opportunity". In the summer of 2018 Sinema said she would vote against Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) for Minority Leader if elected to the U.S. Senate. "The Democratic leadership has failed Democrats across the country," she said. "I am unafraid to say what I believe about what I think our party needs to do and I think our party needs to grow and change."
Journalist Jonathan Martin wrote in The New York Times in September 2018 that Sinema was running "one of the most moderate-sounding and cautious Senate campaigns this year, keeping the media at arms-length and avoiding controversial issues", and said her campaign was generally reluctant to bring up President Donald Trump. According to Martin, both Republicans and Democrats said that Sinema had "few major legislative accomplishments to her record" and was running "on a political image that she has shaped and reshaped over the years. And nothing is more central to it now than her childhood homelessness."
On November 12, many news sources called the U.S. Senate race for Sinema, and the Republican nominee, Martha McSally, conceded. Sinema is expected to be sworn in with the 116th United States Congress on January 3, 2019.
Sinema has been described as a centrist or moderate Democrat. According to National Journal's 2013 Vote Ratings, her votes place her near the center of their liberal-conservative scale. The National Journal gave her a composite ideology score of 57% liberal and 43% conservative. According to the Bipartisan Index created by The Lugar Center and the McCourt School of Public Policy, Sinema was the sixth most bipartisan member of the U.S. House of Representatives during the first session of the 115th United States Congress. She has cited U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, as a role model. She was one of the most conservative Democrats in the House of Representatives during her tenure.
In 2015 and 2016, she did not vote for Nancy Pelosi for Speaker of the House. In 2015, she voted 73% with the majority of her own party. The conservative group Americans for Prosperity gives Sinema a lifetime 27% rating and the conservative Goldwater Institute gave her a 35% in 2010 when she was a state legislator; the progressive Americans for Democratic Action gave her a 60% liberal quotient. In 2017, she voted in line with President Donald Trump's position approximately half the time. According to Five ThirtyEight, as of November 2018, Sinema voted in line with Trump's position on legislation 62.2% of the time.
Sinema supports abortion rights. Asked about Roe v. Wade, Sinema indicated that the ruling should not be overturned and that she supports a woman's right to choose. She has been endorsed by EMILY's List. She has a lifetime 100% rating from Planned Parenthood, which is pro-choice, and a 20% rating from the pro-life organization Campaign for Working Families as of 2018.
In 2015, Sinema was one of just seven House Democrats to vote in favor of a Republican-backed bill to repeal the estate tax, which affects about 0.2% of deaths in the U.S. each year (estates of $5.43 million or more for individuals, or $10.86 million or more for couples). That same year, she voted to change the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's leadership from a single director to a bipartisan commission.
In 2016, with Republican congressman John Katko of New York, Sinema cosponsored the Working Parents Flexibility Act (H.R. 4699). This legislation would establish a tax-free "parental savings account" in which employers and parents could invest savings tax-free, with unused funds eligible to be "rolled into qualifying retirement, college savings or ABLE accounts for people with disabilities without tax penalties". In September 2018, she voted "to make individual tax cuts passed by the GOP [in 2017] permanent". She was one of three Democrats to break with her party and vote for the tax cuts being made permanent.
According to a profile in The Advocate, "Sinema has her sights set on advancing LGBT rights." She has a history of policy advocacy regarding LGBT rights and issues. In 2006, Sinema was among the leading opponents of a proposed amendment to the Arizona state constitution which would have banned same-sex marriages and civil unions. The proposal failed in Arizona, the first time that a state rejected a ban on same-sex marriage, but, a second proposed amendment banning only same-sex marriage was passed in 2008 with Sinema opposing that amendment as well. Sinema supports same-sex marriage, domestic partnership recognition, and adding gender identity to anti-discrimination laws.
While a law student at Arizona State University, Sinema organized pacifist protests, including against the Iraq War. She also opposed the war in Afghanistan at the time. She supported the Gulf War. In 2006, she said she opposed "war in all its forms". After joining Congress in 2012, Sinema said that her views on military force had evolved, and that "you should never take military intervention off the table. When you do so, you give an out to a rogue nation or rogue actors." Josh Lederman of The Hill reported that "she said she favors aggressive diplomacy, crippling sanctions to combat proliferation, and swift, multilateral intervention as a last resort". She supports the use of military force to stop genocide, such as in Sudan, Somalia and Rwanda. She wrote a doctoral dissertation on the 1994 Rwandan genocide that Lexington Books published in 2015.
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 Lederman, "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, 2001), I have always and will always continue to oppose war in all its forms."
On September 15, 2018, CNN reported that Sinema, as an antiwar activist in the years after 9/11, "led a group that distributed flyers depicting an American soldier as a skeleton inflicting 'U.S. terror' in Iraq and the Middle East." The flyers "promoted a February 2003 rally organized by Local to Global Justice, an anti-war group Sinema co-founded". Sinema was described in news reports as an organizer and sponsor of the rally and was "listed as the point of contact for the event". One flyer referred to "Bush and his fascist, imperialist war", saying, "Government is slavery", and describing laws as "cobwebs for the rich and chains of steel for the poor". CNN said that such positions were "a contrast from the more moderate profile she has developed since her 2012 election to Congress".
In October 2018, CNN reported on Sinema's "past ties to far-left groups" and "extensive past as a progressive activist", writing that "Her events and associations in opposing the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – and her early years as a Democratic lawmaker in Arizona – frequently brought her into contact with the left-wing fringe." In 2005 and 2006, she co-hosted an Air America radio show with 9/11 truther Jeff Farias.
Sinema favors gun control measures such as requiring background checks on gun sales between private citizens at gun shows, and requiring a license for gun possession. In 2016 the National Rifle Association (NRA), which opposes gun regulations, gave Sinema a 29% rating. The Gun Owners of America (GOA) have given her a "D" rating. In 2018, the NRA gave Sinema a 33% score and GOA gave her a 17% rating.
Sinema voted against repealing the Affordable Care Act, but has called for reforms to the law. In a 2012 congressional campaign debate, she said the health care law wasn't perfect, and that in Congress she would work to amend it to make it work effectively. Sinema voted to delay the imposition of fines on those who did not purchase insurance in 2014. She also voted to repeal the Medical Device Tax and for the Keep Your Health Plan Act of 2013.
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."
Sinema co-sponsored the Southwest Border Security Threat Assessment Act (H.R. 4482), a bill that calls for border threat analysis of terrorism, smuggling, and human trafficking every five years.
Sinema was one of 24 House Democrats to vote in favor of Kate's Law, a bill that would expand maximum sentences for foreigners who attempt to reenter the country, legally or illegally, after having been deported, denied entry or removed, and for foreign felons who attempt to reenter the country.
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.
Sinema opposed Arizona SB 1070. She has argued that mass deportation of undocumented immigrants is not an option and supported the DREAM Act. Her 2012 campaign website stated 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." In July 2018, she broke with her party by voting with Republicans against abolishing ICE.
The Federation for American Immigration Reform, a PAC that seeks to limit both legal and illegal immigration, gave Sinema a 33% rating in 2018, and UnidosUS, which supports a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, gave Sinema a score of 88% in 2014.
In June 2013, Sinema became one of 29 original cosponsors of the bipartisan LIBERT-E (Limiting Internet and Blanket Electronic Review of Telecommunications and Email) Act, along with Representative Justin Amash. The legislation would limit the National Security Agency (NSA) to only collecting electronic information from subjects of an investigation.
In July 2013, Sinema joined a bipartisan majority and voted against an amendment to a defense appropriations bill (offered by Amash) to prohibit the NSA from monitoring and recording details of U.S. citizens' telecommunications without a warrant.
In 2016, Sinema was one of just five House Democrats to vote for a Republican-backed bill barring the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from regulating broadband rates. Her vote broke from her party; other Democrats were strongly opposed to the measure, and President Obama said he would veto it if it passed.
Sinema married, and later divorced, her BYU classmate Blake Dain.
On November 17, 2013, Sinema completed an Ironman Triathlon in a little more than 15 hours. Sinema was the second active member of Congress—behind Senator Jeff Merkley—to finish a long distance triathlon, and the first to complete an Ironman-branded race. On December 25, 2013, Sinema summited Mount Kilimanjaro.
She has credited the government, her church, her teachers, and her family for helping her climb out of poverty.
Sinema has been the first openly bisexual member of the U.S. House of Representatives, the first openly bisexual person elected to the U.S. Senate, and the first woman elected as a U.S. Senator from Arizona.
This section of a biography of a living person needs additional citations for verification. (November 2018) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
|Libertarian||Powell E. Gammill||16,620||6.64%|
|Democratic||Kyrsten Sinema (Incumbent)||169,055||60.95|
|Green||Angela Green (withdrawn)||57,442||2.41%||N/A|
- List of LGBT members of the United States Congress
- Women in the United States House of Representatives
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Kyrsten Sinema.|
- Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema official U.S. House website
- Kyrsten Sinema for U.S. Senate
- Kyrsten Sinema at Curlie
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- Kyrsten Sinema official Arizona Senate website (archived)
|U.S. House of Representatives|
|New constituency|| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Arizona's 9th congressional district
|Party political offices|
| Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Arizona
|Current U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)|
| United States Representatives by seniority
|113th||Senate: J. McCain | J. Flake||House: E. Pastor | T. Franks | R. Grijalva | P. Gosar | D. Schweikert | R. Barber | A. Kirkpatrick | M. Salmon | K. Sinema|
|114th||Senate: J. McCain • J. Flake||House: T. Franks • R. Grijalva • P. Gosar • D. Schweikert • A. Kirkpatrick • M. Salmon • K. Sinema • R. Gallego • M. McSally|
|115th||Senate: J. McCain (until Aug. 2018) • J. Flake • J. Kyl (from Sep. 2018)||House: T. Franks (until Dec. 2017) • R. Grijalva • P. Gosar • D. Schweikert • K. Sinema • R. Gallego • M. McSally • A. Biggs • T. O'Halleran • D. Lesko (from Apr. 2018)|
|116th||Senate: J. Kyl • K. Sinema||House: R. Grijalva • P. Gosar • D. Schweikert • A. Kirkpatrick • R. Gallego • A. Biggs • T. O'Halleran • D. Lesko • G. Stanton|