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Health care is Sinema's top issue in Senate bid

U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema is hoping the issue of health care vaults her into the U.S. Senate.

The Phoenix-area Democrat is matched up against U.S. Rep. Martha McSally for the seat left open with the retirement of Republican Sen. Jeff Flake.

Protecting Arizonans with pre-existing conditions from losing their health care and controlling costs are her top priorities.

“Whether Arizonans have health insurance or not, they are concerned with the rising cost of insurance,” Sinema said. She noted that many in the state are concerned with efforts in Washington, D.C., to curtail the benefits of the Affordable Care Act – specifically coverage of pre-existing conditions.

About 2.8 million Arizonans have pre-existing conditions, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Without this protection under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, many Arizonans would not be able to get insurance, Sinema said. In the Senate, she said, she would prevent attempts to strip away these benefits.

Sinema said she supported finding reductions in the cost of prescription drugs and medical care.

She also promised to fight any effort to privatize Medicare and Social Security, which thousands of Arizona seniors rely on.

Politics is personal

Her older brother served in the Marine Corps and her younger brother is in the Navy, so she said "getting veterans the care they deserve" is another of her priorities. Sinema mentioned a number of bills to improve veterans’ health care she championed. She was a co-sponsor of VA Mission Act of 2018, which made a variety of changes to how the Veterans Administration operates.

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Sinema touts her four terms in the Legislature and three terms in Congress as another of her strengths in the Nov. 6 election. 

Her former state house colleague Ken Cheuvront gave her advice she still heeds.

“The best way to represent your constituency is to take the time to listen to them and spend less time talking,” Sinema said. 

Get up and organize

Sinema was a social worker and a legal advocate before entering politics in 2002. She holds four advanced degrees from Arizona State University, including a law degree and a Ph.D. in social work, and has been a lecturer at the university for the past 16 years. She's taught courses in development, public policy and social work.

Asked about her most-necessary app, she said it was her calendar app, which she says helps her stay organized.  

“The number one piece of advice I give to my students, the first day of class, is to become more organized and to calendar their time,” Sinema said. She credits her calendar for staying organized enough to earn an MBA from ASU in May, while serving in Congress and teaching courses online.

“That’s how I’ve been able to become a really effective leader in my community, in my work in Congress and, of course, in my second job teaching at ASU,” Sinema said.

She also competes in Iron Man competition though she would like to become a faster runner. Her current mile time is 7:04, but she said, “I’m trying to get under seven. I really want to get under seven.”

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Alex Kline/Arizona PBS

U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema is the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Republican Jeff Flake, who’s retiring.