Updated Nov 12, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Kelly beats Trump-backed Masters in Arizona Senate race

U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) speaks during a Get Out the Vote Rally at San Xavier District Community Center on October 25, 2022.

U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) speaks during a Get Out the Vote Rally at San Xavier District Community Center on October 25, 2022.

Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) will hold onto his seat after beating Trump-backed challenger Blake Masters, the Associated Press reported.

Why it matters: Kelly's win over venture capitalist Masters brings a sigh of relief to Democrats after days without final Senate race results and comes as a blow for Republicans in their quest to regain Senate control.

Driving the news: While Democrats edged closer to keeping control of the Senate, it’s still unclear which party will hold a majority in the upper chamber. Nevada’s Senate race remained uncalled as of Friday, and Georgia’s Senate race is headed for a December runoff.

  • If Sen. Catherine Cortez-Masto fends off a challenge from Republican Adam Laxalt in Nevada, Democrats are guaranteed a majority.
  • If Laxalt wins, Senate control will hinge on a Dec. 6 runoff between Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) and Republican Herschel Walker.

Of note: Masters' defeat is also a further loss to former President Trump, whose prominent endorsed candidates had an underwhelming showing during the midterm elections.

State of play: Polling showed Kelly with a substantial lead throughout most of the campaign but, in late October, the Cook Political Report moved the race to "toss-up" from Democratic-leaning.

  • During a televised debate in October, Masters attempted to tie Kelly to President Biden's unpopularity, particularly around border issues.
  • Kelly countered that he helped secure more than $1 billion in funding for border and immigration issues, which he said included additional agents along with technology and barriers.

Meanwhile: Kelly, who has said he supports codifying the repealed Roe v. Wade ruling in federal law, slammed Masters for softening his stance on abortion rights after the primary.

Context: Kelly is a former astronaut and the husband of former Democratic Rep. Gabby Giffords, who resigned from Congress in 2012 after sustaining brain damage from an assassination attempt. He was elected in 2020 to finish the late Republican Sen. John McCain's term — giving Democrats control of both of Arizona's Senate seats for the first time since 1952.

  • Kelly is a moderate Democrat and former Republican, which helped him appeal to independent voters.
  • His re-election signals the traditionally conservative state's continuing shift toward the middle.
  • He outraised Masters, who has worked for tech entrepreneur Peter Thiel, but deep-pocketed outside groups dumped almost $20 million into ads attacking Kelly in the closing days of the campaign.

Catch up quick: Both candidates sought to link one another to extremes in their parties.

  • Kelly criticized Masters for repeating unsubstantiated claims that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump.
  • Masters blamed Kelly for Phoenix's rising inflation rates and surging border crossings.

This story has been updated with additional details throughout.

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