Nov. 12, 2012 – 1:34 p.m.

113th Congress: Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz. (9th District)

Kyrsten Sinema’s political rise is not surprising — she is effervescent and confident, with a diverse background in scholarship, law and social work. Though liberal, she says she has a knack for compromise and is eager to collaborate with anyone willing to address her constituents’ needs.

Sinema cut short her first term in the state Senate to run for the new 9th District because she was disappointed in congressional Republicans’ priorities.

“They seem more intent on legislating birth control than they do solving Arizona’s mortgage crisis or high unemployment,” she says. “We need a pragmatic problem solver.”

Having grown up with very limited means — her family was homeless for a period of her childhood — Sinema’s career has revolved around a desire to help struggling families. Now she plans to work to protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Noting its important role in her own climb out of poverty, she is also committed to expanding access to education. “I want a society in which every kid has the same educational opportunities I did,” she says.

Sinema’s legal experience should make her a prime candidate for the Judiciary Committee, but she would prefer to address the nation’s fiscal priorities from Ways and Means. She hopes her role as a White House liaison for Arizona during the developmental stages of the 2010 health care overhaul will give her a leg up as the committee battles over its implementation.

Sinema generated significant attention from both the left and the right for her religious identity and sexual orientation — she has been described as agnostic and she’ll be the first openly bisexual member of Congress.