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Sinema joins Senate race to unseat Flake

Surprising no one who's been paying attention to her long flirtation with a candidacy, U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema announced Thursday that she's in the running to be the Democratic candidate seeking to oust GOP Sen. Jeff Flake.

Sinema ended months of not-so subtle preparation and much speculation with the announcement, which she made in a brief campaign video.

The Tucson native will face activist Deedra Abboud and a handful of political unknowns in the Democratic primary.

"I owe a large debt to my country. I got my shot and now it's my duty to help others get theirs," Sinema said in her video, mentioning that her family lived in an abandoned gas station for a time as a child. "I never believed that being homeless was going to stop me from being who I wanted to be. When I went off to college, I knew I wanted to help other people get their shot at the American dream, because that dream came true for me."

Sinema, who began her political career as a supporter of Ralph Nader's presidential run, has swung solidly toward the middle in her years in the state Legislature and Congress representing Tempe.

Democrats haven't won a U.S. Senate seat in Arizona since 1988, when Dennis DeConcini won a second term.

Sinema and U.S. Rep. Martha McSally were among a bipartisan group of 13 House members invited to the White House to talk about tax reform this month with President Donald Trump.

The meeting was the latest of several recent attempts by Trump so far this month to reach across party lines to advance his agenda.

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Sinema, in Congress since 2012, has been criticized by some liberal Democrats for voting in favor of law enforcement and border measures that impose difficulties for immigrants. She opposed the repeal of Obamacare and other signature moves by the administration. Sinema has voted with the Trump administration 49 percent of the time this year, while Flake has backed Trump 92 percent of the time.

The congresswoman has made a point of being publicly bipartisan.

"It's time to put our country ahead of party, ahead of politics," she said Thursday. "It's time to stop fighting and look for common ground. It's time for us to stand up and answer the call. We can fix a broken Washington and make it work again."

Even so, GOP campaigners quickly moved to paint Sinema as "extreme."

"Kyrsten Sinema has more in common with the failed, radical leadership of Nancy Pelosi than she does with Arizonan families, and her track record of voting in lockstep with Washington Democrats will haunt her uphill campaign for Senate," said a release from the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

However, Sinema did not cast a vote for Pelosi to remain the House Democratic leader last year, and didn't appear at a Tempe rally for Hillary Clinton's campaign.

For his part, Flake faces primary challenges from the right, including former state Sen. Kelli Ward, who lost in an attempt to primary U.S. Sen. John McCain last year.

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