Trump Factor May Decide Arizona US Senate Election

Trump Factor May Decide Arizona US Senate Election
Former President Donald Trump speaks at a Save America Rally at the Aero Center Wilmington on September 23, 2022 in Wilmington, North Carolina. (Allison Joyce/Getty Images)
Katie Spence
News Analysis
In one of the four “toss-up” races that could decide control of the U.S. Senate for 2023, incumbent Democrat Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) is seeking to fend off a challenge from Republican political newcomer Blake Masters.

The two couldn’t be more politically opposed.

Kelly bills himself as a lawmaker willing to work across the aisle, although, according to FiveThirtyEight, he has a voting record that suggests he’s fairly progressive.
Masters, on the other hand, secured former President Donald Trump’s endorsement ahead of the Arizona Republican primary and hasn’t been shy about his view that “the Swamp”—the Washington political establishment—is a threat to the United States.
Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) speaks to supporters during the election night event at Hotel Congress in Tucson, Ariz., on Nov. 3, 2020. (Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images)
Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) speaks to supporters during the election night event at Hotel Congress in Tucson, Ariz., on Nov. 3, 2020. (Courtney Pedroza/Getty Images)
In September, an Emerson College poll showed Kelly and Masters in an extremely tight race; Kelly received 47 percent and Masters received 45 percent, which is within the survey’s plus or minus 3.85-point margin of error.
The polling numbers resemble Arizona’s 2020 Senate race, in which then-incumbent Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), a strong Trump supporter, lost to then-challenger Kelly. The loss was the second time McSally has lost to a Democrat. The first loss occurred in 2018, when Kyrsten Sinema successfully flipped retiring Sen. Jeff Flake’s (R-Ariz.) seat to blue and became the first Democrat elected to the U.S. Senate from Arizona since 1988.
The question is whether a strong Trump supporter with a matching personality and campaign win in an increasingly “purple” state. Or will “candidate quality,” as Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) alluded to at a Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce luncheon, hamper the Republican Party in Arizona?

History Repeats

In 2018, McSally lost to Sinema in what, at the time, was considered to be a significant upset.
“We didn’t get a chance for [voters] to get to know me. ... We were very aware of these challenges at the time, but we ran out of airspeed and altitude. And we weren’t defined and resilient enough,” McSally said at the time, according to Roll Call.

But in a twist, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, appointed then-Rep. McSally in 2018 to the U.S. Senate seat that had been held by the late Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). Ducey had named former Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) to the seat in September of that year, but Kyl, after serving for several months, resigned at the end of the year.

McSally lost to Kelly in a special election in 2020 to serve the last two years of McCain’s term.

Arizona Central called McSally’s campaign the worst campaign ever and said she lost specifically because her campaign didn’t appeal to moderates—an issue at the heart of McConnell’s recent caution.
U.S. Senate candidate Blake Masters of Arizona speaks at an America First rally in Prescott Valley, Ariz., on July 22, 2022. (Allan Stein/The Epoch Times)
U.S. Senate candidate Blake Masters of Arizona speaks at an America First rally in Prescott Valley, Ariz., on July 22, 2022. (Allan Stein/The Epoch Times)
In 2020, Emerson College Polling had Kelly at 46 percent and McSally at 45 percent, and Kelly led among independents by a margin of 45 percent to 41 percent. The economy ranked as the No. 1 issue for voters (33 percent), while health care was second (18 percent), and immigration was third (13 percent).
For its most recent election polling, Emerson College showed that the economy is again the No. 1 issue (36 percent), but abortion access and immigration tied for second (16 percent), while health care slipped to third (11 percent).
In a hypothetical matchup between President Joe Biden and Trump, Emerson College Polling had Trump at 44 percent and Biden at 41 percent. Thirteen percent of voters said they would vote for “someone else,” and 2 percent were undecided.


With political vitriol at a fever pitch around the country, it’s easy to forget that not everyone falls into specific ideological camps. Instead, many voters just want a functional government and for both sides to work together. That’s a possibility for semi-purple states such as Arizona, based on the past two elections.
As with McSally in 2020, Masters is a hardcore Trump supporter. His campaign website speaks heavily about how Masters is running to help fix a broken Washington and declining United States. He doesn’t promise bipartisanship and echoes Trump’s approach of taking on not only progressive ideology but also “compromised RINO Republicans.”

In that way, Masters’s 2022 campaign echoes McSally’s 2018 and 2020 campaigns.

Conversely, while his voting record doesn’t always back up his website, Kelly is running a campaign centered on his being an “independent leader” and his role in advancing bipartisan legislation. He also points out that he introduced laws to ban stock trading by members of Congress, something House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has repeatedly opposed.

Kelly’s 2022 campaign resembles his 2020 bid.

However, one big difference between the 2022 and 2020 elections is that voters now live under the leadership of President Joe Biden Biden instead of Trump. Historically, voters have used midterm elections as a referendum on the current administration.

Still, in recent elections, Arizona voters have shied away from heavy partisanship and, as polling numbers indicate, have shown a desire for more moderate candidates.

Katie Spence is a freelance reporter for The Epoch Times who covers energy, climate, and Colorado politics. She has also covered medical industry censorship and government collusion. Ms. Spence has more than 10 years of experience in media and has worked for outlets including The Motley Fool and The Maverick Observer. She can be reached at: [email protected]
Related Topics