Democratic Senator Mark Kelly re-elected in Arizona, defeating Republican Blake Masters

Democratic Senator Mark Kelly re-elected in Arizona, defeating Republican Blake Masters

Democratic Senator Mark Kelly is the winner of the Arizona Senate race, NBC News projects, beating Blake Masters, a Republican backed by former President Donald Trump.

Kelly’s predicted victory on Friday comes three days after polls closed and as Arizona officials continued to count mailed-in or cast-in ballots, particularly in vote-rich Maricopa County, home to Phoenix. It gives Democrats 49 Senate seats, one shy of a majority, with Nevada still counting the votes and Georgia’s contest heading to a runoff on Dec. 6.

Kelly has cast himself as a moderate, breaking with President Joe Biden on issues such as immigration as he seeks to navigate headwinds generated by Biden’s low approval rating and widespread economic hardship due rising inflation. He promised to protect abortion rights and build on the achievements of Democrats in recent years, including laws to boost competition with China and lower prescription drug costs.

“Thank you to the people of Arizona for re-electing me to the United States Senate,” Kelly said in a statement. “From day one, this campaign has been about the many people of Arizona — Democrats, Independents and Republicans — who believe in working together to address the important challenges we face.”

Kelly carried the moderates by a margin of 63% to 33% and the independents by a margin of 55% to 39%, NBC News exit polls showed. Kelly won the women by 12 points and lost the men by 4 points. Kelly and Masters broke even with white voters, but Kelly swept the state’s large Latino electorate by 18 points, securing his victory.

Masters was weakened after battling an ugly Republican primary, which he won with the financial backing of his former boss, venture capitalist Peter Thiel, then struggled to shore up the party’s base as he stumbled over issues like abortion. He sought to link Kelly to Biden and blame the two Democrats for inflation.

Image: Republican Senate challenger Blake Masters on stage in Phoenix on October 6, 2022.
Republican Senate challenger Blake Masters in Phoenix on Oct. 6. Ross D. Franklin/AP File

Kelly had been ahead in the polls for months as he flexed his fundraising muscle and appealed to Arizona moderates. That steady lead prompted the GOP’s biggest Senate super PAC — the Senate Leadership Fund, aligned with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell — to drop out of the race in recent months and focus on closer contests.

Inflation was the main issue for 36% of voters and Masters won them by 40 points, according to exit polls. Abortion was a close second as the top issue for 32% of voters, and Kelly led them by 84 points.

Masters, alongside other GOP candidates at the top of the poll in Arizona, promoted Trump’s false campaign claims, saying in an early campaign ad, “I think Trump won in 2020.” During a recent debate, Masters danced around whether Biden legitimately won.

Arizona, once a Republican stronghold, had leaned toward Democrats in recent years, narrowly voting for Biden in 2020 and electing Democratic senators in 2018 and 2020.

Kelly was elected in a special election in 2020. Her victory gives her a full six-year term for the seat Republican Sen. John McCain has held for decades. The other state senator, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, is re-elected in 2024.

Appearing on Fox News moments before NBC News projected his loss, Masters hit out at McConnell when asked about his lined up super-PAC pulling funds from the race.

“I’ll leave it up to the viewer to decide if this is just malice or blatant incompetence, but clearly Mitch McConnell cares about Mitch McConnell and less than a Senate majority or the American people. I think we need a change. That’s why I ran for office. And somehow, change is coming.

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