Kyrsten Simena officially wins the Arizona Senate seat, defeating Republican Martha McSally and succeeding never-Trumper Jeff Flake. This ends a week-long episode that followed last Tuesday’s election, where McSally initially led. Her lead evaporated the day after the election, and Simena’s lead has grown since. The AP officially called the race late Monday evening.
Simena largely modeled herself as a centrist and is a member of the of the Blue Dog caucus in the House of Representatives. I noted in my primary review of Arizona, where McSally defeated staunch conservatives Kelli Ward and pardoned sheriff Joe Arpaio, that Simena’s independent streak could really resonate with the same voters who elected Jeff Flake and longtime Senate maverick John McCain. In a tweet following her announced victory, Simena promised to continue to “help see others see [their] common humanity & find common ground” while in the Senate, and to be an “independent voice for all Arizonans.”
Simena was also a target of Project Veritas, the undercover journalists who had the hidden-camera tapes on Planned Parenthood. Activists got a secret recording of Simena and staff admitting that Simena’s centrist streak was for show, and she’s actually much more progressive. However, this wasn’t very new to critics of Simena, who was an anti-war protester during her time as a state representative. She was the target of a lot of negative campaigning by Republicans, but, obviously, they were ultimately unsuccessful. Current control of the Senate is 51-47, with Florida in recount and Mississippi headed to a run-off. Republicans should hold Mississippi, but if they lose Florida, they would have really underperformed with what was a great opportunity for gains in the Senate.
As to what’s next for McSally, some have called for her to replace John McCain, though Jon Kyl, a former Senator who served with McCain, has been appointed to the spot. He can withdraw, but Governor Ducey (who won re-election) would still have to choose her in that case. There will be a special election for that seat in 2020, then a re-election in 2022. Arizona had Senate races in 2016 and 2018 and will have them in 2020, 2022, and 2024.
* Andrew Bartholomew is a politics and election news writer from Iowa City, Iowa. He has previously worked for Young Americans for Liberty and was most recently the political director for a Republican congressional bid.