U.S. Senate candidate Kyrsten Sinema, at a town hall event with Southwest Gas employees, also met with representatives from medical nonprofits and answered questions from seniors at an assisted-living community on the northwest side.

U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema spent most of her Monday in familiar territory, a series of meetings with constituent groups in Tucson.

The 42-year-old Democratic Senate candidate still calls the Old Pueblo her hometown, even though she moved out of the area with her family when she was 8.

On the campaign trail, Sinema spoke to Southwest Gas executives about her approach to regulatory reform, met with representatives from several medical nonprofits and Tucson Medical Center about future health-care legislation, and answered questions from seniors at an assisted-living community on the northwest side.

In her travels across the state since announcing her candidacy last year, Sinema says the top issue with voters is health care.

“It doesn’t matter which community you are in, health care is the number-one issue that Arizonans are talking about,” Sinema said. “It is not just Arizonans who don’t have health-care coverage, many of those who are expressing concerns and fear are Arizonans who do have coverage but cannot afford it.”

In a roundtable discussion with patient advocates and local health-care providers on how to improve access to health care in Arizona, Sinema spent just as much time writing down notes as she did talking about her platform and her approach to finding solutions in Congress.

The three-term congresswoman said she is a member of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus in the House of Representatives and that she wanted to bring back some of the issues raised during the meeting to her colleagues in Congress.

Reading her notes after the meeting with health-care providers, Sinema said some of the requests might take years to work their way through Congress — for example, covering dental needs in certain types of insurance offered by the state.

“But were are working on it,” she said.

She cited as an example a meeting with an engraving company in Phoenix, which persuaded her to work on changing the definition of what a small company is when determining requirements for providing health insurance.

Widely considered to be the front-runner in the Democratic primary for the Senate seat now held by Jeff Flake, Sinema has been criticized by members of her own party.

In May, Pima County Public Defender Joel Feinman pushed the Pima County Democratic Party to consider a resolution that condemned U.S. Rep. Tom O’Halleran of Congressional District 1 and Sinema, who represents CD 9, for “their willingness to compromise on core Democratic Party values,” specifically how often their votes were in line with President Trump’s positions.

The measure was rejected by the party’s executive board.

But Sinema isn’t afraid to offer criticism of Trump on the campaign trail.

On Monday, the president signed the National Defense Authorization Act — but he refused to acknowledge its official title — the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 2019.

“It was named for John McCain by Congress, and I wished he would have honored him today,” Sinema said.

“Regardless of what is said in a bill-signing ceremony in New York, in Arizona we know it is the John McCain Act.”

Sinema faces Phoenix lawyer Deedra Abboud in the Democratic primary Aug. 28. The winner faces the Republican primary winner in November’s midterms.

Contact reporter Joe Ferguson at jferguson@tucson.com or 573-4197. On Twitter: @JoeFerguson


Reporter with the Arizona Daily Star. I cover politics as well as the city of Tucson and other municipalities in Southern Arizona.