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McSally, Kelly to face off in contentious U.S. Senate race

In this Feb. 19, 2020, file photo, Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., speaks at a rally for President Donald Trump in Phoenix, campaigning in the traditional way. But now, the global pandemic that is shaking up life is also forcing Arizona's U.S. Senate candidates to reinvent the political playbook when voters are much more concerned about staying healthy and paying the bills than they are with politics. PHOTO BY RICK SCUTERI/ASSOCIATED PRESS

In this Feb. 19, 2020, file photo, Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., speaks at a rally for President Donald Trump in Phoenix. PHOTO BY RICK SCUTERI/ASSOCIATED PRESS

U.S. Sen. Martha McSally has a commanding lead over her Republican challenger and will face Democrat Mark Kelly in the November election.

To nobody’s surprise McSally has a 57.2 percent lead over businessman and political unknown Daniel McCarthy, who goes by “Demand Daniel,” in early results. McCarthy challenged the appointed incumbent from the far right and ran a similar campaign to Kelli Ward in 2018 filled with attacks on McSally that include calling her a “liberal.” 

McSally already has support from the Republican establishment and President Trump is setting records in fundraising for her campaign. Even with her impressive numbers, she still trails Kelly, who is leading the country in fundraising as if he were a presidential candidate. 

Kelly brought in $44.6 million for his campaign to date and still has $21.2 million to spend. McSally raised $26.9 million to date and is left with roughly $11 million in the bank. 

McSally, a former Air Force colonel was the first woman to fly a jet in combat, an impressive feat, but voters will now get to choose between her and a former astronaut in Kelly.

Kelly has been soaring over McSally in virtually every political poll leading by an average of nine percentage points. Republican consultants say they are worried she doesn’t have much time to turn things around before some of her supporters will have to rethink their financial backing.

Former Arizona Speaker of the House and Gov. Doug Ducey chief of staff Kirk Adams said McSally has until Labor Day to turn her flailing campaign around and prove the race against Kelly is still competitive. 

“There’s no doubt about it, Mark Kelly has been running a fantastic campaign at this point … McSally has some work left to do,” Adams told 12 News on July 26. 

There are plenty of Senate seats national Democrats are trying to win to regain control of the chamber and Arizona is now viewed as the most likely to flip into Democratic hands. If that happens in November, McSally would be responsible for handing two U.S. Senate seats to Democrats over just two years. 

The seat McSally and Kelly are fighting for used to be filled by Sen. John McCain. The winner of the general election will only serve through 2022 since that’s when McCain’s term would have ended. McCain beat Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick in 2016, and when he died it was after the deadline to hold a special election in 2018 so Ducey had to appoint his replacement.

Ducey at first appointed former-Sen. Jon Kyl, a Republican, who held the seat through the end of December. McSally was still battling Democrat Sen. Kyrsten Sinema in a close battle to replace Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, and eventually lost. But having received more than 1 million votes, Ducey appointed her to hold the seat hoping she could win the next election. 

Ducey’s appointments of both Kyl and McSally, though in line with the Constitution, drew some controversy and a subsequent lawsuit arguing he should have issued an emergency special election rather than wait 27 months from McCain’s death to the next qualifying election on Nov. 3, 2020.

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