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 now has a nearly 6,000-vote edge that is too much for Republican Vernon Parker to overcome.
She was on an airplane to Washington on Monday for freshman orientation and learned of her victory on Twitter.
In a prepared statement Sinema said,
"I am grateful for the honor and the opportunity to serve the people of Arizona again. My job is to represent all of the people in CD9 whether they voted for me or not. The voters have given us a clear 'to do' list - work to fix our economy, reduce our ballooning debt and better protect the middle class. I am eager to get to work and I intend to team up with anyone of any party who is willing to help change Congress and move our country forward."
Political analyst Mike O'Neil said Sinema has a history of being able to reach across the aisle to work with Republicans and that will serve her well in Washington, D.C.
"A history of going across the aisle in the Arizona Legislature, which is very difficult to do," he said.
Sinema's district covers parts of Phoenix, much of Tempe, and sections of Scottsdale, Mesa and Chandler.
"She'll be very interesting to follow," said O'Neil. "She clearly doesn't fit a predictable mold. "
O'Neil said Republicans failed in their attempt to paint Sinema as too liberal, when in truth she's a political centrist on many issues.
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.
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 created 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. Many believe the district leans Democrat.
The district was drawn as a result of population growth revealed by the latest census. It covers parts of Phoenix, much of Tempe, home of Arizona State University, and sections of other suburbs, including Scottsdale, Mesa and Chandler.
One other congressional race remains undecided in Arizona. Rep. Ron Barber, the hand-picked successor to Gabrielle Giffords, had a lead of a few hundred votes over Republican Martha McSally in the Tucson-area district.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.