Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly is facing off against Republican challenger Blake Masters in a debate Thursday night hosted by Arizona PBS.
Kelly, a freshman senator, is running for a full six-year term after serving only two years for winning a special election back in 2020. Masters, a venture capitalist has the backing of former President Donald Trump.
The race is one of a handful nationwide that will decide whether Republicans can reclaim the majority in the Senate.
The debate is scheduled for 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT/6 p.m. PT. and is being livestreamed here.
There is more work to be done, Kelly says in bid for another term
Elected two years ago to the Senate to finish Republican John McCain’s term, Kelly said he has worked “to cut through the red tape.”
Along with promising to bring manufacturing back to America, the more moderate Democratic candidate Kelly said he sticks up for his state by calling Democrats out when they are “wrong” on issues like border security.
Kelly called Masters dangerous for Arizona, including for his support of the proposed nationwide abortion ban.
– Savannah Kuchar
Masters delivers opening statement
In his opening statement, Masters opened by criticizing Kelly for the record number of migrants crossing the southern border, a key issue he has staked his campaign on.
“Mark Kelly has messed everything up. Our border is in chaos,” said Masters. “We’ve got drugs and illegal aliens just pouring in. Crime is up.”
“It wasn’t like this two years ago,” Masters said.
– Ken Tran
Debate is underway
It’s 6:00 p.m. in Arizona and the debate is underway on Arizona PBS.
The three candidates, Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly, Republican Blake Masters and Libertarian Marc Victor have taken their podiums for first questions and opening statements.
– Ken Tran
U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly and challenger Blake Masters are set to meet Thursday night for an hourlong debate on Arizona PBS.
Kelly, a Democrat, was elected in 2020 to serve out the term of the late Sen. John McCain. Kelly is seeking his first full six-year term. Masters is a Republican and protege of entrepreneur and political megadonor Peter Thiel.
The election is Nov. 8, and early voting begins Oct. 12.
The debate will begin at 6 p.m. and also includes Libertarian Marc Victor. It will air statewide on Arizona PBS, other television and radio outlets and online at azpbs.org and azcentral.com. The debate will be moderated by “Arizona Horizon” host Ted Simons.
– Arizona Republic
Tens of millions already poured into race
Arizona’s U.S. Senate race is seen as one of the most important in the country, one that will help decide who runs Congress’ upper chamber.
The chamber is split 50-50 but Democrats hold the majority by virtue of Vice President Kamala Harris’ authority to cast tie-breaking vote. (The vice president also serves as president of the Senate).
Outside groups already have spent tens of millions in the race in an effort to define the candidates on TV and cellphone screens. That makes it harder for a debate to truly surprise viewers or define those taking part.
“Kelly is the more professional politician at this stage, having been in the Senate for a while, and also his previous work with the (gun-control advocacy group) Giffords organization. He’s probably more polished and less likely to make mistakes,” said Barbara Norrander, a political science professor at the University of Arizona.
– Ronald J. Hansen, Arizona Republic
Border talk in a border state
Expect to hear a lot of talk about the border in Thursday night’s debate. 65% of voters in the Grand Canyon State said that immigration will be a “very important” issue in considering their vote, according to a CBS News and YouGov poll.
If there’s an issue that Kelly has separated himself from his Democratic colleagues, it’s immigration.
Kelly has distanced himself from President Joe Biden’s immigration policies, criticizing them and calling for more resources to be spent on the southern border such as hiring more border patrol agents.
In the border state of Arizona, immigration-minded voters are key to winning any statewide election.
Masters prior to winning his nomination bid in August, has promoted a version of “the great replacement” theory, a racist conspiracy theory that suggests Democrats are flooding the country with immigrants to influence elections and dilute the power of whites.
— Ken Tran
Analyst: Masters must seize opportunity
The pressure is on the Republican challenger, said Jessica Taylor, Senate editor for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report in Washington, D.C.
“I think it’s critical for Masters because he’s less well known with voters than Kelly is, and he’s got to convince independents and Republicans to stay in his camp,” she said. “This is a crucial time for him to make either a good first impression with voters or reintroduce himself to them.”
That may be complicated by the recent decision by a Pima County judge to reinstate the state’s Civil War-era ban on nearly all abortions. It brings attention to an issue seen as problematic for Masters and away from rising gas prices and an uncertain economy more broadly, two issues that Republicans see as more favorable for them.
While issues can move around in importance throughout an election, debates don’t usually settle the matter, Taylor said.
“They only matter if there’s a major misstep,” she said.
– Ronald J. Hansen, Arizona Republic
Suffolk poll: Kelly leading Masters by seven points thanks partly to abortion
Incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly (49%) leads Republican challenger Blake Masters (42%) in a Suffolk University poll released last week.
Libertarian Marc Victor is pulling 2%, according to Suffolk, while another 7% say they are undecided.
Kelly’s seven-point lead over Masters is driven by women (55%-35%) and independents (51%-36%), the poll found, while Masters leads 50%-42% among men.
“The importance of abortion rights in Arizona shouldn’t be underestimated,” said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center. “In fact, independent women are voting on this issue with almost the same intensity as Democratic men.”
When voters were asked to assign on a 1-10 scale how much their views on abortion will impact which candidates they will select in November, 49% of independent women gave it the highest rating, compared to 50% of Democratic men. Just 26% of independent men gave it a rating of “10,” while 72% of Democratic women gave it the highest rating.
– Ledyard King
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Live updates: Kelly and Masters clash in Arizona Senate debate