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AZ-Sen: Race dynamics play out when Democratic candidate walks out on opioid crisis hearing

The Arizona U.S. Senate race overshadowed a congressional hearing in Phoenix on the nation’s opioid crisis. (Stuart Ritchie/Getty Images)

The Arizona U.S. Senate race overshadowed a congressional field hearing in Phoenix on the nation’s opioid crisis, according to the Arizona Republic.

The dynamic centered on Senate candidates and U.S. Reps. Martha McSally and Kyrsten Sinema, who both attended the event. Sinema, a Democrat from Phoenix, is considered the frontrunner to win the Democratic nomination. McSally, a Tucson Republican, is expected to get the GOP nomination in the battle to replace retiring GOP Sen. Jeff Flake.

Arizona media played up the “political undercurrents of the hearing,” noting what is expected to be a key race in determining the control of the Senate.

What happened?

Sinema raised eyebrows by leaving the hearing less than 30 minutes after it began, the report stated. She left shortly after Republican Gov. Doug Ducey spoke about Arizona’s efforts to prevent prescription abuse and overdoses. Her departure came before law enforcement and social workers had a chance to speak on the issue.

A Sinema spokesman, James Owens, explained that she left to travel to Casa Grande to visit a Veterans Affairs community clinic and meet with business leaders. Her plans also included a trip to the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Fort Huachuca and a visit with firefighters in southern Arizona.

"She's got a pretty packed schedule," Owens told the Arizona Republic. "Attending the hearing was something that was important to her and she was able to fit it in an otherwise packed day."

What did Republicans say?

Republicans criticized Sinema’s brief appearance.

"Arizonans deserve more than lip service from Kyrsten Sinema on addressing our porous border and stopping the dangerous flow of opiates into this nation," Calvin Moore, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said. "These are real problems that require real leadership, but Sinema would rather pack up early and just go home. If Kyrsten Sinema won’t stand up and fight for Arizona, then maybe she should reconsider asking voters for a promotion."

McSally commented, as well.

"I appreciate my other colleagues on both sides of the aisle spending significant time to focus on this really important issue for our state and our country," McSally said. "You'll have to ask Sinema why she had other priorities that she felt were higher. But I think the priorities for the others that stayed were clear."

More women are going to jail over the opioid crisis, the report noted. Across the nation, the problem is impacting families and communities without adequate treatment programs and permanent solutions.

What about the Democrats?

Owens stressed that Sinema is concerned about the opioid problem. Her previous work as a social worker shows her commitment to battling drugs and other social problems, he said. He also noted that Sinema has supported “at least 11 different bills” that did or would provide resources to combat opioid abuse.

In turn, Democrats criticized McSally’s track record.

"It’s the true hallmark of a typical politician to say one thing but do another and, on opioids, Congresswoman McSally’s actions don’t match her rhetoric," Courtney Rice, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said. "If she were serious about addressing the opioid crisis, Congresswoman McSally would end her attack on the health-care policies that have expanded care and helped curb substance abuse. Instead, she’s voted to gut those programs and leave families stranded."

McSally, who chairs the House Homeland Security subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security, reportedly scheduled the hearing in Phoenix to explain what Arizona is doing about opioid trafficking and addiction, according to the report.

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