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Democrats win Arizona Senate seat for first time in 30 years

Reuters / Caitlin O'Hara | Democratic candidate Kyrsten Sinema speaks to supporters after winning the US Senate race in Scottsdale, Arizona, November 12, 2018.

Arizona Republican Martha McSally conceded her razor-thin US Senate race Monday, providing Democrats with a key pickup in a state that has not elected a member of the party to the Senate in three decades.

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"I just called Kyrsten Sinema and congratulated her on becoming Arizona's first female senator after a hard-fought battle," McSally said in a video statement posted on her Twitter account.

"I wish her all success as she represents Arizona in the Senate."

US networks Fox and CNN called the race in Sinema's favor. She will replace outgoing Senator Jeff Flake, a conservative Republican who is a critic of President Donald Trump.

Arizona is a border state with increasing numbers of Latino immigrants. The issue is front and center in statewide elections there, and Trump has triggered a sense of nativism among his supporters.

But Sinema sought to focus on kitchen-table issues like health care, and Democrats' push to preserve protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

Democrats, who reclaimed control of the House of Representatives in the midterms, have now flipped two Senate seats: Arizona and Nevada.

Republicans gained Senate seats in Indiana, Missouri and North Dakota.

The victory by Sinema, an Arizona congresswoman, will provide Democrats a critical extra vote in the 100-member chamber, which Republicans will still control when the dust settles from last week's closely-watched midterm elections.

With almost all ballots counted from the November 6 election, Sinema had expanded her lead each of the last four days. On Monday evening Sinema was ahead by 38,197 votes, or 1.72 percentage points.

Trump weighed in on the Arizona race after the election, crying foul when authorities took days to count ballots and used a procedure that allowed voters to confirm their signatures in cases where there were discrepancies.

"Just out -- in Arizona, SIGNATURES DON'T MATCH. Electoral corruption," Trump said on Twitter, citing no proof of wrongdoing.

"Call for a new Election? We must protect our Democracy!"

Flake has repeatedly stated there has been "no evidence" of voter fraud, and offered warm, cross-party congratulations to Sinema on her victory.

"It's been a wonderful honor representing Arizona in the Senate. You'll be great," he tweeted.

Sinema, who at 42 will be one of the Senate's youngest members, addressed cheering supporters in Phoenix, where she took a moment on Veterans Day to thank McSally -- the country's first female fighter pilot to fly in combat -- for her service to the nation.

McSally had embraced Trump and his policies during her Senate race, and Sinema appeared to call out Trump's scorched earth tactics in her remarks, as she called for healing after the tense midterm elections.

'Compromise instead of division'

"Arizona rejected what has become far too common in our country: name-calling, petty personal attacks, and doing and saying whatever it takes just to get elected," Sinema said.

"It's dangerous, and it lessens who we are as a country. But Arizona proved that there is a better way forward," she added.

"We can work with people who are different than us, we can be friends with people who are different than us, we can love and care about people who are different than us."

Sinema also paid tribute to Arizona native son John McCain, the senator and 2008 Republican presidential nominee who emerged as a key Trump critic and who died of cancer earlier this year.

"Senator McCain is irreplaceable, but his example will guide our next steps forward," she said.

"He taught us to always assume the best in others, to seek compromise instead of division, and to always put country ahead of party."

Sinema's race was one of three undecided Senate battles.

A fierce fight remains in Florida, where authorities are conducting a recount in the race between Democratic Senator Bill Nelson and his Republican challenger Rick Scott, who is Florida's term-limited governor.

Mississippi's Senate race is headed to a run-off, which is expected to be won by Republican incumbent Cindy Hyde-Smith.

(AFP)

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