Nov 12, 2012 1:44 PM
PHOENIX (AP) - 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.
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.
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.
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 district where Sinema won 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 East Valley suburbs, including Scottsdale, Mesa and Chandler.