Another Close Arizona Race Beckons

By Jim Ellis

Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly (D)

Jan. 31, 2022 — The state of Arizona has become a volatile political domain, and a new poll suggests we will see another razor-thin US Senate race evolve later this year.

Over the course of history, the Arizona voting universe boasts a pattern of electing similar numbers of candidates from both parties. Admitted to the Union in 1912 as the 48th state, Arizonans have elected just 14 individuals to their two Senate seats, seven of whom have been Democrats with an equal number of Republicans. Since 2010, however, the electorate has strayed from its conservative political roots and moved toward the ideological center.

With this backdrop, the Data for Progress research organization just released their major statewide survey of the Grand Canyon State electorate (Jan. 21-24; 1,469 likely Arizona general election voters, online & text). The DfP finds Sen. Mark Kelly (D) already falling into a tight battle with Attorney General Mark Brnovich, should the latter man win the GOP nomination.

In the campaign from two years ago, you will remember that Sen. Kelly won a special election in 2020 and now serves the remaining two years of the late Sen. John McCain’s (R) final term. In this election year, he stands for a full six-year term.

The ballot test found Kelly holding a slight 49-47 percent edge over AG Brnovich, but with the senator’s personal approval rating lapsing into the negative realm, 46:49 percent favorable to unfavorable. He still rates higher, however, than President Biden (45:54 percent), fellow Arizona Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (42:52 percent), and Republican Gov. Doug Ducey (39:57 percent).

Brnovich also records a negative personal approval rating at 26:32 percent, while venture capitalist Blake Masters, another top Republican in the US Senate field, posts a 16:17 percent ratio, with 68 percent replying that they “haven’t heard enough (about him) to say.”

In a ballot test against Gov. Ducey, who is not a Senate candidate, Sen. Kelly’s advantage is 50-47 percent. Masters was not included in the head-to-head pairing questions with Sen. Kelly.

In the last campaign, polling found Kelly’s opponent, appointed Sen. Martha McSally (R), significantly trailing until the very end. In October of 2020, for example, a huge total of 43 polls were conducted and publicly released. Kelly led in all but two, averaged a seven percentage-point advantage margin, and broke into double-digit lead in 13 of the surveys. But the data proved an inaccurate precursor to the final result, as his victory spread over McSally was only 51.1 – 48.8 percent.

In the ‘20 race, Kelly raised $101 million, an incredible sum for a political campaign in a medium to large sized state of 7.52 million people that ranks 14th highest in the country. Only the South Carolina Senate candidates raised more campaign money on a per capita basis. Sen. Kelly is already on track to raise a similar amount for the 2022 campaign.

Regarding Sen. Sinema, the poll projects serious trouble within her own Democratic Party, but she performs very well among Republicans and breaks even with Independents in terms of job approval (20:76 percent among Democrats; 47:48 percent from Independents, and an overwhelming 66:26 percent among Republicans). In a preliminary 2024 Democratic primary pairing with Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Phoenix), however, she would trail by a whopping 16-74 percent.

The 2022 Arizona campaign will again become a national contest and its result will be one of the key determining factors pertaining to Senate control in the next Congress.

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