Senator Mark Kelly pulls off victory in Arizona Senate race as Democrats inch closer to majority

Mr Kelly’s win over Republican Blake Masters puts Democrats one step closer to retaining control of the upper chamber

John Bowden
Washington DC
,Andrew Feinberg,Eric Garcia
Saturday 12 November 2022 04:57 GMT
Midterms: What happened?

Arizona Senator Mark Kelly will return to the US Senate for a full six-year term, defeating former venture capital executive Blake Masters by a margin of 52 per cent to 46 per cent. The win inches Democrats towards holding onto the Senate majority.

Mr Kelly’s victory comes after Democratic Senator Maggie Hassan held her seat in New Hampshire and John Fetterman won an open race in Pennsylvania. The results give Democrats 49 Senate seats.

Nevada’s Senate race remains too close to call but mail-in ballots will likely favor Democratic Senator Catherine Cortez Masto. In addition, Senator Raphael Warnock will go into a runoff against Republican nominee Herschel Walker on 6 December.

Mr Kelly first beat Republican Senator Martha McSally, who Arizona governor Doug Ducey had chosen to fill the seat vacated by the death of the late GOP stalwart John McCain, in 2020.

Mr Kelly’s win in 2020 coincided with Joe Biden’s surprise pickup of the state after Donald Trump’s victory there four years earlier. Mr Trump endorsed Mr Masters in the Republican primary, bolstering his campaign to victory against his Republican opponents.

The state has long been a Republican stronghold, but trended increasingly purple in recent years. Mr Kelly’s fellow Democrats are also locked in tough battles in the state’s other races as Democratic Secretary of State Katie Hobbs faces a close race against former news anchor Kari Lake.

Shortly after Mr Kelly’s win, Democrat Adrian Fontes was projected to defeat election denying Mark Finchem for Arizona secretary of state.

Mr Trump endorsed all of the eventual nominees in their Republican primaries, a sign of how the Arizona Republican Party moved rightward.

Mr Trump almost immediately criticised the election results and ballots that came out of Maricopa County, where Phoenix is located, on his networking platform Truth Social.

“This is a scam and voter fraud, no different than stuffing the ballot boxes,” he said. “They stole the Electron [sic] from Blake Masters. Do Election over again!”

The news also comes as Democrats and Republicans await the results from many House races that have not reported all of their votes yet.

Mr Kelly is the husband of former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who resigned her seat in 2011 after she was shot in the head during a constituent event. Since then, the two have become outspoken advocates for ending gun violence, and he was part of a group of Senators who negotiated the first piece of gun legislation to pass since 1994.

Mr Masters trailed the incumbent throughout the campaign and his bid to unseat Mr Kelly was punctuated by bizarre strategic choices including appearing in a video interview with a controversial far-right congressman, Madison Cawthorn, as well as attacking Mr Kelly’s career as an astronaut.

His defeat at the hands of the former Nasa astronaut makes it far less likely that the GOP can regain control of the Senate.

With the chamber evenly divided at 50 Republicans and 50 Democrats, the GOP needed only to pick up a single seat and defend the ones they currently hold to block President Joe Biden’s judicial picks and control the Senate calendar.

But after Mr Fetterman knocked off ex-TV doctor Mehmet Oz for the seat held by the retiring Republican Pat Toomey, Republicans need to pick up both of the remaining undecided races in Nevada and Georgia.

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