Mark Kelly Wins Arizona Senate Race, Putting Democrats a Seat From Control

Mr. Kelly, who ran as a bipartisan legislator devoted to the needs of Arizona, defeated Blake Masters, a Republican newcomer whose ideological fervor failed to win over enough independent voters.

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Mark Kelly Wins Arizona Senate Race, Putting Democrats a Seat From Control |

Senator Mark Kelly was long seen as one of his party’s most vulnerable incumbents, but he prevailed over Blake Masters, a Republican running for office for the first time.

Senator Mark Kelly of Arizona won a tough campaign for re-election on Friday, The Associated Press reported, defeating his Trump-backed Republican rival, Blake Masters, to put Democrats within one seat of retaining control of the Senate.

Democrats hope to clinch the chamber when votes are fully counted in the Nevada contest between Senator Catherine Cortez Masto, a Democrat, and her Republican challenger, Adam Laxalt, who held a tiny lead late Friday but was expected to fall behind.

If Mr. Laxalt were to prevail, control of the Senate would hang in the balance until the runoff election on Dec. 6 in Georgia between Senator Raphael Warnock, a Democrat seeking a full term, and his Republican challenger, Herschel Walker, the former football star.

Mr. Kelly, long seen as one of his party’s most vulnerable incumbents, rose to victory with the support of national Democrats and some top state Republicans who played up his willingness to reach across the aisle and who cast his candidacy as necessary to preserve American democracy. With 83 percent of the vote counted, he led Mr. Masters by 5.7 percentage points.

Mr. Masters, a venture capitalist and political newcomer who embraced former President Donald J. Trump’s lie that the 2020 election was stolen, burst into Arizona politics with millions of dollars in support from the technology billionaire Peter Thiel, his former employer.

With an ideological fervor that excited the state Republican Party’s ascendant right wing, he portrayed himself as an internet-savvy insurgent while playing to xenophobic and racist fears, claiming that Democrats were trying to bring more immigrants to the country to change its demographics and gain a political edge. He struggled, however, to win over the state’s independent voters, who have helped push Arizona from reliably red to tossup and who now make up about a third of its voting population.

Tensions have run high since Tuesday as election officials count votes in Arizona, which has long been at the center of conspiracy theories and skepticism about the 2020 presidential election. Mr. Masters and the other top three Republican candidates on the statewide ballot — all of whom have advanced false claims of election fraud in 2020 — have made baseless suggestions that election officials are incompetent and hinted at malfeasance.

Who Will Control Congress? Here’s When We’ll Know.

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Much remains uncertain. For the second Election Day in a row, election night ended without a clear winner. Nate Cohn, The Times’s chief political analyst, takes a look at the state of the races for the House and Senate, and when we might know the outcome:

The House. Republicans are likelier than not to win the House, but it is no certainty. There are still several key races that remain uncalled, and in many of these contests, late mail ballots have the potential to help Democrats. It will take days to count them.

The Senate. The fight for the Senate will come down to three states: Nevada, Georgia and Arizona. Outstanding ballots in Nevada and Arizona could take days to count, but control of the chamber may ultimately hinge on Georgia, which is headed for a Dec. 6 runoff.

How we got here. The political conditions seemed ripe for Republicans to make big midterm pickups, but voters had other ideas. Read our five takeaways and analysis of why the “red wave” didn’t materialize for the G.O.P.

One of those Republicans, Mark Finchem, the nominee for secretary of state and one of the nation’s leading proponents of election falsehoods, also lost his race on Friday night. He was defeated by Adrian Fontes, the Democratic former Maricopa County recorder.

In an email to supporters on Thursday, the Masters campaign said it had seen “troubling” issues during the election and asked for contributions: “We’re expecting a contested road forward and legal battles to come.”

The fall campaign carried high stakes for debates in Congress on abortion rights and the border, as well as for the direction of Arizona, once a conservative stronghold but now one of the country’s most politically competitive states.

Mr. Kelly, who won office in 2020 in a special election to fill the seat of Senator John McCain after his death, will be serving his first full term. In the final weeks of the campaign, his allies promoted Mr. Kelly’s bipartisan work in the Senate on energy, infrastructure and the economy. Outside the Arizona State Capitol a day before Election Day, Mr. McCain’s sons stood with state Republican leaders and former elected officials, who accused Mr. Masters of campaigning on fear and rebuked him over his 2020 election claims.

Sharon Harper, who is close friends with the McCain family and serves as the chief executive of a Peoria commercial real estate company, said at the event that she knew Mr. McCain would have been “very supportive” of Mr. Kelly because, like Mr. McCain, Mr. Kelly always put “America and Arizona first.”

Mr. Kelly, a former astronaut and the founder of a nonprofit group and super PAC that support gun control — his wife, former Representative Gabby Giffords, was shot in the head in a 2011 assassination attempt — pitched himself as a leader concerned first and foremost with the needs of his state. He received help from former President Barack Obama and Jill Biden, the first lady, who made last-minute stops in Arizona.

But given President Biden’s sagging approval ratings and what appeared to be a difficult national environment for Democrats, Mr. Kelly was vulnerable.

In an October debate, Mr. Masters hit him hard on inflation and the southern border, two of Republicans’ strongest issues in the state. On the stump, Mr. Masters painted a dystopian picture of the border — overrun by cartels, fentanyl and “illegals” sweeping through.

After lagging well behind in polls early in the campaign, Mr. Masters improved his standing as former President Donald J. Trump and his allies came to his aid and national Republicans ticked up their ad spending.

Some Republican political strategists also saw Mr. Masters as riding the coattails of Kari Lake, the Republican running for Arizona governor, whose race against Katie Hobbs, the Democratic secretary of state, remained too close to call on Friday.

In the closing days of the campaign, Mr. Masters, Ms. Lake and the other top Republican candidates toured the state on a bus, pitching themselves as a tight band of outsiders taking on the news media, the left and their own party’s establishment.

Mr. Kelly, for his part, courted a diverse coalition of moderates, conservatives and independents. He also used Spanish-language radio and television to pitch himself to the state’s Latino voters. They helped propel his victory in the 2020 special election, which gave Democrats both of his state’s Senate seats for the first time in 70 years.

At his election night party in Tucson, not far from his home, Mr. Kelly said his campaign had not been “about name-calling or dividing people” but about finding common ground and solving problems.

“This has been a tough election,” he said. “No matter how the rest of the results shake out, our government will remain closely divided with a lot more work to do,” he said.

He tended to campaign alone, often in a bomber jacket, and, as a retired Navy captain — Mr. Obama called the combat pilot turned senator the actual “Top Gun” — he had an advantage that allowed him to cover more ground than other candidates.

“I rent a little airplane,” he said. “I fly myself around the state, meeting with folks.”


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