McSally is clinging to a 49.3 percent lead. She has nearly 15,000 votes more than Sinema, according to the latest results from the Arizona Secretary of State's office.
The two candidates aim to make history as the first female senator from Arizona. Sinema might even become the first Democrat to represent Arizona in the Senate since Dennis DeConcini was re-elected in 1988.
But by 11 p.m. on election night, attendees at the Arizona Democratic Party’s event at the Renaissance Hotel in Phoenix began to dwindle. The remaining partygoers nursed their beers. There was no sign of Sinema, as winning Congressional District 9 candidate Greg Stanton and losing gubernatorial candidate David Garcia crossed the stage to give their speeches.
Earlier in the evening, Jamie Glass, a Chandler resident attending the watch party, said that she would like to see Sinema “finally take a seat that she deserves.”
Watching the results roll in on two jumbo screens broadcasting CNN, 50-year-old Glass acknowledged that the race would be extremely close. She remained optimistic about a Sinema victory.
“We want to see any semblance of a blue wave – whether it’s just a trickle, or anything – to take over control and hold somebody in check,” Glass said in an interview.
The race is a contest to replace outgoing Republican Senator Jeff Flake, a Trump critic who is despised by most people in his own party and decided to retire instead of running for re-election.
Millions of dollars have been spent to define the candidates in the eyes of voters.
Sinema and her allies in the Democratic Party repeatedly called out McSally for swerving to the right and embracing President Trump – even after McSally handily defeated her hardline rivals Kelli Ward and Joe Arpaio in the August primary.
McSally has painted Sinema as a radical leftist based on her activism in Green Party circles during the early 2000s, deploying old clips and images to tarnish Sinema, such as a photo of Sinema wearing a pink tutu at an anti-war protest.
Yet, Sinema’s voting record is decidedly moderate. She votes with the president over half the time.
If she wins, her campaign could become a centrist blueprint for Democrats eager to win in deep-red Republican strongholds. If she loses, then 2018 is just another Senate election in Arizona – no different than the last 30 years.
With a decisive loss for Garcia on Tuesday and an Associated Press-reported victory for Republican secretary of state candidate Steve Gaynor – his opponent, Katie Hobbs, has not conceded – Sinema’s contest is one of the last opportunities for Arizona Democrats to score a statewide office.
Evidently, a surge in Democratic enthusiasm in Arizona wasn't enough to push Sinema to a fast win. But Jalokoi Solomon, the Arizona state director of progressive political action group NextGen America, said that young voters could turn future Arizona Senate races into toss-ups.
These voters turned out on Tuesday to support Sinema, she said in an interview.
“We still don’t have the results in yet, but we saw record turnout,” Solomon said. “We’ve laid the foundation that we need for this year and for years to come.”