Kyrsten Lea Sinema is an American politician, former social worker, and lawyer serving as the senior United States Senator from Arizona. A Democrat from Arizona, she served three terms as a state representative for the 15th legislative district from 2005 to 2011, one term as the state senator for the 15th legislative district from 2011 to 2012, and three terms as the United States Representative for the 9th district from 2013 to 2019.
Sinema began her political career in the Arizona Green Party and rose to prominence for her progressive advocacy, supporting causes such as LGBT rights and opposing the war on terror. She left the Green Party to join the Arizona Democratic Party in 2004 and was elected to a seat in the United States House of Representatives in 2012. After her election, she joined the New Democrat Coalition, the Blue Dog Coalition and the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, amassing one of the most conservative voting records in the Democratic caucus. She won the 2018 Senate election to replace the retiring Jeff Flake, defeating Republican nominee Martha McSally. Sinema is the first openly bisexual and the second openly LGBT woman (after Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin) to be elected to the House of Representatives and to the Senate in 2012 and 2018, respectively. She also was the first woman elected to the Senate from Arizona.
According to the nonpartisan organization GovTrack.us, Sinema is the most conservative Democrat in the Senate and has a voting record rated more conservative than Republican Senators Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins. During Donald Trump's presidency she voted in agreement with him 50.4% of the time, the third-highest of any Democratic senator.
Early life and education
Kyrsten Lea Sinema was born in Tucson, Arizona, on July 12, 1976, to Marilyn (Wiley) and Dan Sinema. The middle child, Sinema has 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 an abandoned 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 bunkbed for me and my sister. We separated our bunkbed 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 in DeFuniak Springs at age 16 and went on to earn her B.A. from Brigham Young University (BYU) in 1995 at age 18. She left The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after graduating from BYU. Sinema returned to Arizona in 1995.
Sinema worked as a social worker from 1995 to 2002 in the Phoenix metropolitan area's Washington Elementary School District and received a 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 and started working as a criminal defense lawyer. In 2008, Sinema completed the Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government program for senior executives in state and local government as a David Bohnett LGBTQ Victory Institute Leadership Fellow. In 2012, she earned a Ph.D. in justice studies, also from Arizona State.