GOP Sen. Martha McSally and Democrat Mark Kelly face off in the special election for US Senate in Arizona

Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty; Taylor Hill/FilmMagic; Shayanne Gal/Business Insider
  • GOP Sen. Martha McSally is running in a special election against Democrat Mark Kelly US Senate in Arizona.

  • McSally was appointed to serve in the Senate seat held by the former Sen. John McCain and is running to serve out what would have been the rest of his term until 2022. 

  • Kelly, a gun violence prevention advocate and former astronaut, is a prolific fundraiser and formidable opponent, making this election one of the most competitive US Senate races for Democrats. 

  • Polls in Arizona close at 7 p.m. local time and 9 p.m. ET, but results are embargoed until an hour after polls close. Insider will have live results as they come in. 

  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Sen. Martha McSally is running in a special election against Democrat Mark Kelly for US Senate in Arizona. Polls in Arizona close at 7 p.m. local time and 9 p.m. ET, but election results are embargoed until an hour after polls close. Insider will have live results as they come in. 

The candidates

McSally, a former US House Representative, ran for an open US Senate seat to replace Sen. Jeff Flake in 2018 but lost to Sen. Krysten Sinema. 

Gov. Doug Ducey then appointed McSally to serve in the US Senate seat held by the legendary former Sen. John McCain, who died in office in 2018. Now, McSally is running to serve out the rest of McCain’s term, slated to end in 2022. 

Shortly after McSally took office in January 2019, former Navy captain, astronaut, and gun violence prevention advocate Mark Kelly announced he would challenge her in 2020 as a Democrat. 

Kelly co-founded the organization now known as the Giffords Foundation with his wife, the former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot and seriously injured while meeting with constituents in Tucson in January 2011. 

His campaign platform emphasizes expanding access to affordable healthcare, building up Arizona’s economy, immigration reform, and protecting seniors’ Social Security benefits. 

McSally is among the most talented fundraisers among the Republicans running for re-election this year, but she faces a tough match-up to catch up to Kelly. 

Kelly proved himself to be a formidable fundraiser right out of the gate, bringing in several million dollars per quarter. He raised an eye-popping $38.8 million in 2020’s second quarter compared to $23 million for McSally.

The stakes

In addition to winning back the White House, regaining control of the US Senate for the first time since 2015 is a top priority for Democrats, and would be a major accomplishment towards either delivering on a future president Joe Biden’s policy goals or thwarting President Donald Trump’s second-term agenda.

Currently, the US Senate is made up of 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats, and two independents that caucus with Democrats, winning that Democrats need to win back a net total of four seats to have a 51-seat majority (if Biden wins, his vice president would also serve as president of the Senate and would be a tie-breaker vote). 

In her short time in the US Senate, McSally has aligned herself closely with Trump, taking conservative, pro-Trump stances, and has voted with Trump 95% of the time, according to FiveThirtyEight. 

And after previously being rejected by the voters in 2018, McSally now in an increasingly precarious position vying for a full term in a year where the electorate is poised to be far friendlier to Democrats. 

Thanks to Biden’s strong performance among white, suburban, and senior voters, Arizona — once considered a Republican bastion — is now a tossup state in the electoral college. Biden leads Trump by nearly four percentage points on average in Arizona, according to FiveThirtyEight’s tracker of general election polls. 

Given the general trending direction of the state, some of McSally’s weaknesses in expanding her support over her performance in 2018, and Kelly’s strength as a candidate, Arizona could be the next best pickup opportunity for Democrats after Colorado.

And because the Arizona race is technically a special election, Kelly could be sworn in as early as November 30, the Arizona Republic reported. 

See Insider’s full guide to the race for the US Senate here

The money race

Both candidates are prolific fundraisers, making Arizona one of the most expensive Senate contests this year. So far, Kelly and McSally have raised a combined amount of over $144 million for their campaigns, not to mention the significant amount of outside spending in the race. 

In 2020’s third fundraising quarter between June and September, Kelly brought in a stunning $38.7 million and is set to report nearly $19 million in cash on hand, his campaign announced, while McSally raised $23 million. 

Kelly, along with Jaime Harrison in South Carolina and Sara Gideon in Maine, was one of three Democratic Senate candidates to break a senatorial quarterly fundraising record previously set at $38.1 million by Texas 2018 Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke. 

In total, Kelly has raised $89.7 million, spent $78.7 million, and has $11 million in cash on hand, according to Federal Election Commission records. McSally has raised $56.8 million this cycle, spent $48.6 million, and has $9 million in cash on hand.

Earlier in the fall, McSally was criticized for joking at an event that supporters should “fast a meal” in order to give money to her campaign. 

What the polls say

Kelly has led McSally by a margin of four percentage points or more in almost every non-partisan poll conducted in 2020, according to FiveThirtyEight, and leads McSally by nearly five percentage points on average in all polls, according to Real Clear Politics’ polling averages. 

The most recent poll of the race from The New York Times and Siena College conducted October 26-30 found Kelly leading McSally by seven points, 50% to 43%, among likely voters while a CNN/SSRS poll conducted October 23-30 found Kelly also ahead by seven points, 52% to 45%, among Arizona likely voters.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted October 14-21 similarly found Kelly leading McSally by eight points, 51% to 43%.

What the experts say

The Cook Political Report and Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics both rate the race as “leans Democratic,” and Inside Elections rates it “tilts Democratic.”

According to FiveThirtyEight’s US Senate forecast, Kelly has a 77% chance at defeating McSally in the November election. The forecast shows that Kelly is poised to receive 53% of the popular vote, 6% more than McSally.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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