Democratic incumbent Senator Mark Kelly has been declared the winner of the Arizona Senate race, according to Decision Desk, besting Republican candidate Blake Masters, 51.78% to 46.1%.
The winner was projected late Friday evening after a lengthy ballot count in which Masters trailed Kelly consistently.
On Saturday morning, Masters tweeted that “every legal vote” should be counted, indicating that despite the race being called by multiple outlets, he doesn’t view this as the end.
— Blake Masters (@bgmasters) November 12, 2022
The battle to represent Arizona in the Senate was a closely watched race, as it was widely seen as a key battleground in determining control of the Senate. Kelly was one of the best funded candidates of the 2022 cycle, having raised over $70 million over the course of the campaign. Masters’ campaign was hampered in the general by poor fundraising relative to Kelly’s machine.
Kelly led for the majority of his race for re-election despite significant perceived headwinds for Democrats. In 2022, Democrats across the country faced poor approval ratings relative to Republicans in a number of key election issues, such as inflation, crime, and immigration. Democrats were also burdened with an unpopular Democratic president in the White House.
Kelly tried to blunt Republican criticism of him on those topics by running somewhat as a maverick. Kelly touted studies that ranked him as one of the most bipartisan lawmakers in the Senate. He also distanced himself from President Joe Biden, never requesting that Biden come to Arizona to campaign with him and demurring when asked about it by reporters.
Polls tightened between Kelly and Masters in the closing weeks of the race. With one week left until election day, the Libertarian candidate in the race, Marc Victor, announced that he was dropping out and endorsed Masters. While Victor never polled high, Masters touted the endorsement as a “major boost” in the close race against Kelly.
While Masters trailed Kelly for most of the race, he closed the gap in October. Election forecasters for outlets such as Politico and Cook Political Report moved the Arizona Senate race from a Democratic-leaning race to a toss-up in response.
Masters won a competitive primary race largely because of the financial backing of tech mogul Peter Thiel and former President Donald Trump’s endorsement. Masters was running third in the GOP primary behind Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich and businessman Jim Lamon until Trump endorsed Masters in early June. Masters then soared into the top spot until winning the primary in August.
While he projected himself as an “America First” Trump ally in the primary, Masters pivoted in the general to put the spotlight on Kelly. Masters emphasized his conservative stances on immigration and federal spending, while hammering Kelly for voting with Biden 95% of the time, according to FiveThirtyEight.
Kelly and Masters debated each other one time during the campaign. During the October 6 event, in which Victor also participated, Masters attacked Kelly for his record voting with Biden. Kelly worked to distance himself from the president and claimed that he had secured “$1 billion more” in funding for the U.S. Border Patrol.