The Arizona U.S. Senate Race

In December 2018, Martha McSally was appointed to fill the seat vacated first by the death of John McCain and subsequently, by the illness of John Kyl.

McSally (born March 22, 1966) served 22 years in the Air Force where she rose to the rank of Colonel and became the first American woman to fly for the USAF in combat. After her retirement in 2011, McSally ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2012 and then won Arizona’s 2nd Congressional seat in 2014. She was reelected in 2016.

In 2018, McSally lost her bid for the U.S. Senate by two points to Kyrsten Sinema. A vocal Trump supporter, McSally made national news in January when she dismissed a question from CNN’s Manu Raju, by calling him a "liberal hack." Twice.

McSally’s Democratic opponent is 56-year old Mark Kelly who entered politics after the 2011 shooting of his wife, former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. Kelly is a 25-year veteran of the Navy where he flew 39 combat missions during Operation Desert Storm, and of NASA, where he embarked upon four missions as an astronaut. In January 2013, following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Mark and Gabby co-founded GIFFORDS, an organization of veterans, law enforcement officials, gun owners, faith leaders, and others determined to reduce gun violence.

Kelly’s military service will deprive McSally of the demeaning rhetoric she has used in the past against opponents who have not served.

Kyrsten Sinema’s defeat of McSally for Jeff Flake’s open seat in 2018 was the first open-seat win by a Democrat in Arizona since 1976. The Sinema campaign is seen by some as a blueprint for how a centrist Democrat can win in Arizona. At the beginning of 2020, Real Clear Politics gave Kelly a slim 2.6% lead over McSally, Ohio Predictive Insights had Kelly’s lead at 3% and Public Policy Polling found a 4% spread.

McSally’s internal campaign polling in 2016 showed that during her primary race, Trump was never viewed favorably by more than 80% of GOP voters, a percentage considerably lower than Trump’s standing with Republicans nationally. Trump won Arizona by less than 100,000 votes. According to Politico, Arizona has over 300,000 naturalized citizens, half of whom were not registered to vote as of November 2019.

Our affiliate, the progressive voter registration organization Field Team 6, has registered nearly 3,500 voters in Arizona. Our volunteers will be teaming up with those of Field Team 6 at optimal times in “hot spot” locations. For example, Maricopa and Pima Community Colleges each has ten locations, where students arriving in late August—particularly new students —offer significant registration opportunities.

Back to Our Strategy