Oct 7, 2022 - Politics

Sen. Kelly, Blake Masters spar over abortion and inflation in debate

Illustration of opposing hands pointing at two different speech bubbles.

Illustration: Megan Robinson/Axios

Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly, Republican challenger Blake Masters and Libertarian Marc Victor faced off in their first and only televised debate in a race that could determine which party controls the U.S. Senate.

What happened: The three candidates debated about inflation, immigration, abortion, the 2020 election, water and other issues during the hour-long event that was largely devoid of fireworks.

Border security and immigration

What they're saying: Masters hammered Kelly and President Biden, whom he repeatedly sought to tie Kelly to, as ineffective at the border.

  • Masters noted that Kelly voted against a Republican amendment that would have funded an additional 18,000 border patrol agents, and asked, "Have you done everything in your power to secure the southern border?"
  • 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.
  • Victor described himself as pro-immigration and called for a comprehensive overhaul of federal policies to make it easier for people to get visas to work in the U.S.
Blake Masters stands at a podium
Screenshot of Blake Masters from Arizona PBS debate.

Abortion

Details: Kelly repeatedly slammed Masters for calling abortion "demonic" and for his comments during the Republican primary supporting a federal personhood law that would ban abortion nationally.

  • Masters has tried to soften his post-primary stance, which Kelly called a political maneuver to hide his extreme views from moderate voters.
  • "I think we all know guys like this, guys that think they know better than everyone about everything. You think you know better than women and doctors about abortion," said Kelly, who said he supports codifying the repealed Roe v. Wade ruling in federal law.
  • Masters didn't address his previous positions, instead saying he supports the 15-week ban that Arizona passed earlier this year and a similar federal proposal that Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) introduced.
  • Masters said Kelly supported legislation that would mandate that abortions be permitted through the end of the third trimester, to which Kelly responded that such abortions are usually the result of serious health problems.

Of note: The Women's Health Protection Act that Kelly voted for would allow states to restrict abortions after the point of fetal viability except when they're necessary to protect the health or life of the mother.

Mark Kelly stands at a podium
Screenshot of Mark Kelly from Arizona PBS debate

Inflation

What's happening: Masters argued that profligate spending and the printing of money by Biden, Kelly and other Democrats were fueling massive inflation, which jumped by 13% in the Phoenix metro area over the past year, the biggest in the country.

  • Masters compared Kelly to fellow Arizona Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, saying that unlike Kelly, she sometimes opposes spending bills supported by Biden.
  • Kelly said the government needed to step in to help small businesses that were struggling to stay open as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the shutdowns and economic downturn it triggered.
  • Like Masters, Victor said printing money caused prices to go up, but he blamed "foolish economic policies" by both Democrats and Republicans for the problem.
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