Arizona election a promising political shift toward center

  • A supporter crosses her fingers as she talks with Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Kyrsten Sinema, at a get-out-the-vote event at the Arizona Education Association headquarters in Phoenix, Nov. 3. AP FILE photo

Published: 11/15/2018 8:37:57 PM

Is it too late for America to come to its senses, to come to the middle? Or will our government oscillate between hard right Republican and hard left Democratic control of government, which will likely lead to perpetual political stalemate or repeated unraveling of each side’s accomplishments when power shifts?

That is no way to solve our country’s problems.

Is Krysten Sinema’s centrist success in purplish Arizona’s Senate race last week a promising sign of something new?

The avowed centrist congresswoman scored the Democratic Party’s biggest coup of the election — flipping a red state’s U.S. Senate seat. Sinema won the Arizona seat being vacated by Republican Jeff Flake to become the first woman to win a U.S. Senate seat from that state. The race was tight enough that a winner wasn’t decided until Monday. But we’ll take it, especially because it shows that even in red Arizona there are enough moderate Republicans fed up with Donald Trump and his obsequious Senate allies to install a Democrat, a bisexual one at that.

Sinema’s win achieves a longtime Democratic goal of making Arizona, with its growing Latino population, a competitive state. And she did it by pointedly not running against the president, or even critiquing his hardline immigration stance.

She targeted moderate Republican and independent women by painting herself as a nonpartisan problem-solver who voted to support Trump’s agenda 60 percent of the time. Her nearly single-issue campaign talked about the importance of health care and protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

Her opponent, Republican Rep. Martha McSally, was vulnerable because she backed the Republicans’ failed attempt to repeal President Barack Obama’s health care law.

Sinema tailored her campaign for conservative-leaning Arizona rather than the national environment, but it may be a guide for Democrats who hope to expand the electoral map in 2020. While some liberals won important races in California, Colorado and Kansas, the left’s highest-profile champions disappointed on Election Day in more conservative states.

As a centrist, Sinema ​​​​​voted against Nancy Pelosi as the Democratic leader, supported relaxed regulations on banks and a law to increase penalties on people illegally re-entering the country. She supported a bill making it easier to deport immigrants identified by police as gang members.

Some of those positions may upset her more left-leaving Democrat colleagues, but it appealed to enough of her state’s voters to get her elected. In some ways she feels like a mirror image of the late Arizona senior senator, John McCain, who called them like he saw them to the point of tanking Trump’s plan to kill Obamacare.

Ron Horsford, a 50-year-old Arizona Republican, at a Sinema event, said he was excited to vote for her because he liked her message of “I’m going to work with the other side.”

We also like that approach to government. It’s popular in Washington circles to complain about political polarization paralysis.

But if we can just get a few more moderates in Congress, maybe we can again govern from the center and solve our country’s problems rather than spend time at political gamesmanship.

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