by Rebekah L. Sanders – Jan. 3, 2012 10:55 PM
The Arizona Republic
Democratic state Sen. Kyrsten Sinema announced Tuesday she will resign from the Arizona Legislature to run for Congress in the new 9th District.
The move sets the district up for a potentially heated primary battle among well-known Democrats.
Sinema, who was first elected to the Legislature as a representative in 2004, is the only candidate so far to announce a bid for the 9th District. As drawn on the proposed 2012 Arizona congressional redistricting map, the district includes parts of Paradise Valley, downtown Phoenix, downtown Tempe and west Mesa. It is considered a toss-up between Democrats and Republicans.
A handful of other Democrats have expressed interest. State Sen. David Schapira, D-Tempe, the minority leader, has formed an exploratory committee and said he plans to ask voters at a town hall this Saturday in Tempe if he should run.
Arizona Democratic Party Chairman Andrei Cherny and former congressional candidate Jon Hulburd confirmed Tuesday they also are considering.
Cherny, who ran for state treasurer in 2010, and Hulburd, who ran for Congress against U.S. Rep. Ben Quayle that year, said they were surveying the competition and plan to decide soon.
Sinema lives just outside the 9th District but said she plans to move a few blocks to be within its boundaries. Members of Congress are not required to live in the districts they serve, but it’s generally politically advantageous to do so.
If Sinema had run in the district where she now lives, the 7th District, she would have competed with Democratic incumbent Rep. Ed Pastor, whose chances at re-election are strong.
Sinema told the The Arizona Republic that if elected, she plans to focus on creating jobs, helping families keep their homes and supporting education.
“I feel like Washington, D.C., just doesn’t get it,” she said, blasting Congress for failing to pass a jobs bill in 2011 at a time of record unemployment.
“Someone needs to speak up for us, for the forgotten middle class and the powerless in our society,” she said, adding that as a child her family lived in an abandoned gas station while her stepfather was unemployed.
“I’ve knocked on 15,000 doors, held hundreds of community meetings, and I understand how tough it is for people to make ends meet,” she said.
Sinema said she has a track record of reaching across the aisle, from sponsoring several bills that passed in the Republican-led Legislature to publishing a book on bipartisan coalitions.
The National Republican Congressional Committee issued a news release Tuesday scoffing at Sinema’s contention that she’s been willing to buck party leaders.
“If elected, she’ll just be a rubber-stamp for more of the job-crushing Obama policies she’s spent the last three years lobbying for all over Arizona,” Daniel Scarpinato, spokesman for the committee, said in the statement.
Sinema, 35, was born in Tucson, teaches in the School of Social Work at Arizona State University and practices law. She served on a White House health-reform task force in 2009.
Sinema’s campaign office said she has submitted resignation paperwork.
The Republican field in the 9th District remains unclear, although several names have been floated.
Quayle, a freshman Republican, lives in the 9th but has considered switching to the neighboring 6th District, where voters lean conservative. The 6th District covers Fountain Hills, north Phoenix and parts of Cave Creek, Carefree and Paradise Valley.
Arizona gained a congressional district, for a total of nine, after the 2010 census showed Arizona was the second-fastest-growing state in the nation.
A map with new congressional and legislative districts is being tweaked by the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, but it is not expected to change much before it goes to the U.S. Department of Justice for review.