Mark Kelly will win Arizona’s Senate race, NBC News forecast on Friday, and flip the 2020 election seat for Democrats.
As of noon, Kelly had a 3.4 percentage point lead over Republican Senator Martha McSally, 51.7% to 48.3%, with 91% of the total vote counting. Kelly has won 1,600,332 votes to date, an advantage of 103,133 votes over McSally, whose total number stands at 1,497,199 votes.
The anticipated victory would make Arizona the third state to change hands a Senate seat this year after the Democrats won GOP-controlled Colorado and Republicans promoted Democratic-owned Alabama.
Both parties will have at least 47 seats for the next Congress.
Kelly, 56, is a retired Navy captain and astronaut. He is married to former MP Gabby Giffords, who survived a shot in the head in 2011. Giffords later became the leader of the Movement to Prevent Gun Violence.
McSally, 54, also has a military background and served in the Air Force for more than 25 years, becoming the first woman to fly a fighter jet in combat.
Kelly has kept a head start on McSally in almost every poll since he first entered the race. This reflects what both Democratic and Republican strategists identified as his overall strength as a candidate.
Kelly’s campaign also boosted McSally’s, despite both contestants raising record sums for a political race in Arizona. By September 30, Kelly had raised a total of $ 82.8 million for his campaign, compared with $ 50.9 million raised through the McSally campaign.
During his campaign, Kelly extolled his political independence through any ties to the Democratic Party. After decades of independence, Kelly registered as a Democrat for the first time in 2018.
US President Donald Trump watches Senator Martha McSally (R-AZ) speak at a Make America Great Again campaign rally on October 19, 2020 in Prescott, Arizona.
Caitlin O’Hara | Getty Images
McSally has meanwhile fully accepted her party’s standard bearer: President Donald Trump. But Trump’s divisive record and insistence that Republicans in Congress reflect his positions on any issue made it much harder for moderate Republicans to form victorious coalitions of voters that year.
Arizona has a long history of electing moderate Republicans to state office, particularly in the US Senate. The late Senator John McCain, whose seat remains to be occupied by McSally and Kelly, represented Arizona in the Senate more than 30 years before his death in 2018.
But Arizona’s political hue has shifted from red to purple in recent years, partly due to the growth of Hispanic voters. In the state’s largest county, Maricopa, 31% of the population are Latino, and in the past four years, Maricopa county has twice as many voters as Democrats than Republicans.
Another factor influencing the politics of the state is a large influx of newcomers. As of 2016, the number of people who have moved to Arizona is estimated at 300,000, and a quarter of them are from California, the most politically liberal state in the country.
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