Arizona Sen. Kelly’s Latest Polling

By Jim Ellis

Sen. Mark Kelly (D) won the special election in November to fill the balance of the late Sen. John McCain’s (R) final term in office. He again comes before the voters in this election cycle to stand for a full six-year term.

May 17, 2021 — Arizona pollster OH Predictive Insights went into the field to test the Grand Canyon State’s early electorate as it relates to freshman Sen. Mark Kelly (D). As we remember, Kelly won the 2020 special election to fill the unexpired portion of the late Sen. John McCain’s (R) final term, and next year he stands for a full six-year term.

OHPI surveyed the sampling universe of 935 Arizona registered voters as part of an online opt-in panel during the May 3-5 period. The sample was weighted to properly reflect the partisan division within the state along with gender, age, education, region, and ethnicity segmentation.

The questionnaire first tested the job approval ratings of Arizona’s two Democratic senators, Kelly, and Kyrsten Sinema. Then, seven potential prominent Republicans were individually paired with Sen. Kelly to test his strength against each, one of whom is likely to be his 2022 general election opponent.

Regarding the approval ratings, Sen. Sinema scored a 44:36 percent positive to negative ratio with 10 percent landing in the very favorable category and 15 percent in the very unfavorable classification. Sen. Kelly posted a similar, but slightly worse, 45:38 percent ratio. Like Sen. Sinema, more respondents rated him very unfavorable (23 percent) than very favorable (18 percent). The upside-down extreme ratio suggests an underlying weakness since the very unfavorable outweighs the very favorable for both individuals.

Here’s how potential opponents matched up against Sen. Kelly:

CANDIDATE PERCENT
Sen. Mark Kelly (D) 45%
Kimberly Yee (R) 35%
CANDIDATE PERCENT
Sen. Mark Kelly (D) 43%
Jack McCain (R) 29%
CANDIDATE PERCENT
Sen. Mark Kelly (D) 46%
Karl Lake (R) 35%
CANDIDATE PERCENT
Sen. Mark Kelly (D) 47%
Kelli Ward (R) 36%
CANDIDATE PERCENT
Sen. Mark Kelly (D) 47%
Andy Biggs (R) 36%
CANDIDATE PERCENT
Sen. Mark Kelly (D) 44%
Michael McGuire (R) 35%
CANDIDATE PERCENT
Sen. Mark Kelly (D) 46%
Mark Brnovich (R) 36%

Yee is Arizona’s state treasurer. McCain is the son of the late Sen. McCain. Karl Lake is a former news anchor for one of the major network Phoenix television stations. Ward is the Arizona Republican Party chair who has previously served in the state legislature and run for the US Senate. Andy Biggs is the US congressman from the Maricopa County-anchored 5th District. Michael McGuire is a retired major general who headed the Arizona National Guard. Brnovich is the state’s attorney general.

Neither Jack McCain nor Karl Lake has publicly considered entering the Senate race, but they are persons of high name identification and provide a pollster with a sense of an incumbent’s base opposition vote. The others have all been publicly associated with the Senate race. Attorney General Brnovich, ineligible to seek a third term in his present position, is reportedly moving close to announcing his candidacy.

As you can see, the ballot tests in each instance break relatively equivalently, though the pairing with Jack McCain somewhat stands apart. It is here where Sen. Kelly pulls his smallest percentage, and it is likewise the weakest number for any of the Republican potentials.

In all, the polling exercise delivers both good and bad news to Sen. Kelly. The good news is that he polls ahead of every Republican in the span of nine to 14 points, obviously beyond the polling margin of error in all pairings. The bad news is that he fails to reach majority support in all circumstances.

The conclusion is a predisposition that this polling confirms. That is, once again we will see a very competitive Arizona Senate race in 2022 in a politically tight state, with what will be a strong Republican challenger. Once again, we can count on Arizona becoming the site of a national Senate race, and one that will go a long way toward determining which party breaks the current 50D-50R chamber tie.

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