Democratic incumbent Mark Kelly has defeated Republican challenger Blake Masters in the hotly contested Arizona Senate race. The race was called late Friday night by the Associated Press; with 83 percent of votes in, Kelly was leading by a margin of 51.8 to 46.1 percent. At the time the race was called, Masters was running slightly behind his fellow Republican, Kari Lake, who is running for governor in the state. (When the Senate race was called, Lake trailed Democratic candidate Katie Hobbs by a 50.7 t0 49.3 margin.)
Arizona was seen as one of the races crucial to Democrats maintaining their hair-thin hold on the Senate. By securing re-election, Kelly brings the Democrats within one seat of keeping control of the Senate (should Democrats notch 50 seats, Vice President Kamala Harris will cast the tie-breaking vote).
Kelly, a former astronaut and husband of former Representative Gabby Giffords, supports codifying abortion access into law and overhauling the U.S. immigration system. He also backs increased gun regulation and runs a nonprofit dedicated to the issue with his wife, who retired from politics after surviving an assassination attempt.
Arizona went for President Joe Biden during the 2020 presidential election, in a major upset.
But Republicans made steady inroads over the following two years, in part due to runaway inflation that they blamed on Biden.
Masters was seen as a long-shot candidate, but he gained steadily on Kelly in the last few weeks of the race. He was endorsed by former President Donald Trump and got a huge popularity boost through support from a MAGA PAC and his former boss, far-right billionaire Peter Thiel, who was a major donor to Masters’ campaign.
Masters initially supported a fetal personhood law but soon backed off that extreme stance in favor of a federal 15-week abortion ban. Both his initial abortion stance and his (false) claims that the 2020 election was rigged were scrubbed from his campaign website. He also supports finishing the expensive and ineffective U.S.-Mexico border wall started by Trump.
Attention now shifts to the Nevada Senate race, where Republican Adam Laxalt, at the time of this writing, had a 821 vote lead over incumbent Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto. However, Nevada politics reporter John Ralston, who has forgotten more about the Silver State’s political scene than most of the rest of us will ever know, favors Cortez Masto based on where the remaining votes are.
Should Democrats manage to secure the Senate ahead of the Georgia run-off, it could scramble the conventional wisdom of how voters might turn out to vote in that contest. The New Republic’s Grace Segers has some timely analysis of how that contest might shake out should Democrats win in Nevada.