Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) is serving her third term representing Arizona’s 9th District. She is a member of the Congressional Direct Selling Caucus and Blue Dog Democrats, a coalition of moderate Democrats. She sat down recently with DSA Executive Vice President Adolfo Franco to discuss her background, governing philosophy, and direct selling.
Rep. Sinema recounted her early exposure to direct selling. Her parents divorced when she was young, and her family at times faced serious poverty. Her mother turned to direct selling as a source of supplemental income. Despite hardship, Rep. Sinema still considers herself fortunate. Her family was able to call upon friends, family, and the church for help, and eventually got back on their feet. These experiences instilled a sense of compassion for struggling families and would influence Rep. Sinema’s career. “I became a social worker because I wanted to help families, like mine had been helped in our time of need.”
Rep. Sinema later transitioned into politics after finding that kids in Arizona weren’t getting the same opportunity to grow out of poverty. She recalls her first experience in the Arizona legislature: “I went to the legislature, and thought ‘I’ll just explain to them how they’re wrong and how to fix it. … And they told me to go back home. I was a little ticked by that…” Motivated by that indifference, Rep. Sinema began her own swift rise in Arizona politics. In 2002, she ran for the Arizona House of Representatives.
“I ran against an incumbent and defeated him. That was no small feat. I just outworked him.” Since then, she’s served in the Arizona House and Senate, and now in the U.S. Congress. She considers it the privilege of her life to be in Washington serving the families of Arizona.
Rep. Sinema enjoys a reputation in Congress for fiscal responsibility and bipartisan problem-solving. “My approach in Washington didn’t used to be unusual,” she observed, “but it is these days.” Her style is practical and no nonsense. “I believe you should come to work and do your best to get things done and work with anyone who is serious about solving a problem.”
That approach to legislating has led her to forge working relationships with colleagues from both sides of the aisle. “Even if we disagree on ninety-nine percent of issues, it’s my job to find the one percent we agree on and to get that part done,” she explained.
She persists in her determined search for common ground even while frustrated with the gridlock and polarization that characterize contemporary politics. “It’s not good for our country; for our democracy; or for the constituents we serve. The only way to get stuff done is to negotiate and compromise with other people. I tell people I’m trying to make it cool to compromise in Congress!”
Rep. Sinema describes the motives and positions of the Blue Dog Coalition of moderate Democrats. “We’re fiscally responsible Democrats. I think we represent all of America. One of our key priorities is fiscal discipline when it comes to budgeting,” she explained. “Congress spends more than it takes in every year, which created this massive deficit. That’s dangerous for our children and grandchildren. We need to spend within our means, and that means making tough choices and prioritizing what really matters.”
Rep. Sinema also discussed her appreciation of direct selling and her affinity for the products she uses as a direct selling consumer — as a committed triathlete, she relies on health supplements purchased from DSA member companies. She spoke about her personal experience buying products from friends who are direct sellers.
“My friend is a single mother of seven children, five of whom have special needs. Her main source of income is through her direct selling business, and she’s able to have the flexibility to take care of her kids, four of them under the age of five. She’s able to drop the kids off at the three schools they go to and pick them up in the afternoon at different times. She can earn income to keep her family while also making sure she has nutritious food for her kids. Direct selling is perfect for her.”
The Congresswoman’s respect for the autonomy of independent contractors influenced her decision to join the Direct Selling Caucus. The goal of the Caucus, she says, “is to teach other members of Congress and staff about this business model that allows many people like my friend to make an income and take care of their families.”
As Rep. Sinema describes it, the Direct Selling Caucus possesses the same practical and bipartisan views that have distinguished her work in Congress. “You don’t think, I want to put Republican gas in my car or make a Democratic dinner for my kids. People don’t think like that. I actually think people at home aren’t that partisan; they just want to take care of their families, have a good life, and make sure their kids have a better life than they’ve had.”
Rep. Sinema ended by declaring herself an optimist and a realist. As the latter, she acknowledged the tough times many Arizona families are facing. But she’s optimistic that working together can help overcome challenges “as Americans have overcome every challenge.”
To that end, the Congresswoman pledged that her constituents will always know she is “getting up every day, fighting for them and doing what matters to Arizona because most of the things that matter to all Americans simply aren’t partisan.”