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Arizona woman to become 1st openly bisexual member of Congress

| Monday, Nov. 12, 2012, 8:08 p.m.
Democratic candidate Kyrsten Sinema addresses the crowd election night for the U.S. House race in District 9 at the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel in Phoenix, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. (AP Photo/The Arizona Republic, Rob Schumacher)

PHOENIX — Former Democratic state Sen. Kyrsten Sinema has been elected to represent a new Phoenix-area congressional district, emerging victorious after a bitterly fought race that featured millions of dollars in attack ads.

Sinema had a narrow lead on election night that made the race too close to call. But she slowly improved that advantage as more ballots were tallied in recent days, and by Monday had a nearly 6,000-vote edge that was too much for Republican Vernon Parker to overcome.

Sinema becomes the first openly bisexual member of Congress. Her victory came in a year when three states approved gay marriage and at least five openly gay Democrats were elected to House seats. A Wisconsin congresswoman also became the first openly gay person elected to the Senate.

“I am honored and ready to start working for the people of Arizona,” Sinema said.

The 36-year-old was in New York City on Monday for an event held by a women's group and was headed to Washington on Tuesday for congressional orientation.

Parker called her to congratulate her on the victory.

“While I had wished for a different outcome, I will continue my public service so that everybody can follow the American dream just like I did,” Parker said in a statement.

During the race, Parker was criticized by Democrats as a Tea Party radical who would hurt children by cutting the federal Education Department.

Republicans countered saying Sinema was too liberal for the newly-established district and doesn't understand stay-at-home moms.

Parker took the national stage briefly in September when he gave the GOP weekly address. He focused on stopping expected tax hikes and developing a tax code he said would help the economy grow and prevent jobs from being sent overseas.

Sinema said she had the ability to work across party lines. She said she developed the skill during her eight years in the state Legislature, where she was always in the minority. She also said she was committed to women's issues.

Sinema's congressional district covers parts of Phoenix and several suburbs, including the small, affluent town of Paradise Valley where Parker was once mayor.

Republicans had a slight registration advantage, but both parties' totals were exceeded by independents.

One other Arizona congressional race remains undecided. Rep. Ron Barber, the hand-picked successor to Gabrielle Giffords, had a lead of a few hundred votes over Republican Martha McSally in the southeastern Arizona district centered on Tucson.

With more than 267,000 ballots counted as of Monday afternoon, Barber had a lead of about 700 votes. However, thousands more ballots remained to be processed.

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