By Mimi Nguyen Ly
Democrats are one seat away from retaining control of the U.S. Senate after incumbent Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) defeated Republican challenger Blake Masters in the midterms.
The Associated Press called the race in Kelly’s favor Friday night after Maricopa County reported a large batch of results that increased Kelly’s lead such that Masters could not make up the difference with the remaining ballots.
Kelly, a former NASA astronaut, was first elected in 2020 in a special election triggered by the death of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), to serve out McCain’s Senate term. Kelly’s victory gave Democrats both of Arizona’s Senate seats for the first time since 1953.
Kelly and his wife, former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.), were at an Elton John concert in Phoenix when The AP called the race.
“It’s been one of the great honors of my life to serve as Arizona’s Senator,” Kelly said in a statement. “I’m humbled by the trust our state has placed in me to continue this work.”
Masters, who was endorsed by former President Donald Trump in the race for Senate, has not issued a public statement as of 11 p.m. Friday.
The Senate now has 49 seats for Democrats and 49 seats for Republicans.
Democrats are just one seat away from retaining control of the Senate as even with just 50 seats, Vice President Kamala Harris can cast a tie-breaking vote on their behalf.
Seats for Nevada and Georgia are to be determined. The race in Nevada remains too close to call, while Georgia is headed for a runoff election in December.
For Republicans to win Senate control, they must claim victory in both races.
Kelly’s 2022 campaign largely focused on his support for abortion, protecting Social Security, lowering drug prices, and ensuring a stable water supply amid a drought, which has curtailed Arizona’s cut of Colorado River water.
Masters, meanwhile, called for privatizing Social Security, took a hard-line stance against abortion, and has voiced support for securing the U.S.-Mexico border. Masters recently said he wouldn’t vote “for a single thing that Biden wants, not a single piece of funding, not a continuing resolution, not a single appointee, unless and until he agrees to give us some border security.” He said this is the leverage that Kelly has had but hasn’t used.
Masters, like Trump, has cast doubt on the results of the 2020 election and have raised concerns over potential election fraud.
Kelly, despite trying to present himself as a moderate, has faced criticism for voting with his party on almost every important bill that’s come up, including the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan—a spending package many economists blame for increasing inflation—the $740 billion Inflation Reduction Act, and others.
Kelly has particularly tried to talk tough on border security amid unprecedented levels of illegal immigration along the southern border. But Preston Huennekens, a spokesperson for the Federation for Immigration Reform, told The Epoch Times that Kelly and other Democrats talking tough on the border have been silent about Biden’s past decisions that critics said weakened border security.
During his time in the Senate, Kelly has been much more in line with the policies of his party than his colleague Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who several times has bucked White House initiatives over concerns about inflation and other economic considerations.
Joseph Lord, Katie Spence, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.