Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., middle, talks to campaign volunteers at a Democratic campaign office on primary election day Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018, in Phoenix. Sinema is seeking the current U.S. Senate seat occupied by outgoing Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, and will face the Republican primary winner of the race between Rep. Martha McSally, former state Sen. Kelli Ward, and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, if Sinema wins the Democratic primary. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Rep. Sinema wins Arizona Democratic primary for US Senate

August 28, 2018 - 10:35 pm

PHOENIX (AP) — Rep. Kyrsten Sinema has won the Democratic nomination for Arizona's U.S. Senate seat, giving her party its best chance in decades to take a Senate seat in a conservative-leaning state.

Sinema, a onetime Green party member turned centrist Democrat, had the full support of party leadership against her underfinanced liberal primary rival, activist Deedra Abboud. She will face whomever Republican voters nominate in their contest between former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, former State Sen Kelli Ward and Rep. Martha McSally.

Arizona has an open Senate seat this cycle after Republican Sen. Jeff Flake decided to leave office. 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

Sinema was long favored to win the primary and is seen as a competitive Democratic candidate in a general election that could hinge on how voters feel about President Donald Trump and his policies. While her centrist approach and Blue Dog Democrat status may not appeal to the state's voters who are far to the left, her willingness to be bipartisan could curry favor among the state's large crop of independent voters. If she's victorious, Democrats could pick up an Arizona Senate seat for the first time since Dennis DiConcini left office in 1995.

In a state whose electoral votes went to President Donald Trump, the Republican nominee could use voters' support for Trump to their advantage. McSally, Ward and Arpaio all campaigned on their various connections to Trump during the primary. In mid-August, McSally's campaign boasted about the president calling her "terrific" while introducing her at an event. Meanwhile, Ward was endorsed by former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, and Arpaio noted his early support for Trump's presidential run.

The Republican candidates also distanced themselves from the ailing Sen. John McCain, who died after most ballots had already been cast by early voters. McSally drew criticism from the senator's family when she did not mention his name in the signing of the recent defense bill, which was named after McCain. Hours before McCain died on Saturday, Ward suggested in a since-deleted Facebook post that his family had announced he was ending medical treatment to hurt her campaign. After McCain's death, Sinema and Ward suspended their campaigns Wednesday and Thursday while McCain's body lies in state in Arizona's capitol.

A Democratic victory in the Senate race could suggest the state could be up for grabs in 2020. Bill Clinton was the last Democratic presidential nominee to carry Arizona in 1996.

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