Arizona Primaries Expected to Narrow the Focus Onto Senate Race

NASA astronaut Mark Kelly and wife and former congresswoman Gabby Giffords at an event in Tucson, Arizona, in 2016. (Gage Skidmore via Wikipedia)

(CN) — Although Arizona voters will cast ballots Tuesday in Republican and Democratic Senate primaries, the result is all but a foregone conclusion.

Democrat Mark Kelly, a retired Navy captain and space shuttle commander, is unopposed, and incumbent Republican Senator Martha McSally’s sole opponent, wealthy real estate investor and cosmetic supply entrepreneur Daniel McCarthy, isn’t even registering in polls.

McSally has been Arizona’s junior senator since her appointment by Gov. Doug Ducey in late 2018. She replaced Senator Jon Kyl, who stepped down from his appointment replacing Senator John McCain, who died in 2018.

A consistent recent ally of President Trump who did not endorse the president in 2016 when she was serving in the House of Representatives, McSally did not respond to requests for an interview for this story. McCarthy considers McSally a Washington insider who is beholden to the big money her campaign draws.

“This is someone who is willing to solve every problem by way of growing the federal government,” said McCarthy, who with his wife created The Makeup Eraser, a widely available environmentally friendly cloth for removing makeup. “I’m going to do everything in my power to stop the federal government from growing, stop the federal government from passing laws, and shift the burden of responsibility back to the local and state citizens.”

Coronavirus restrictions — continued shutdown of schools and businesses — are more dangerous than Covid-19, said McCarthy, who said masks might have been helpful at the beginning of the pandemic but are not effective now that the virus has spread.

“I assure you that the ramifications of these actions are much more severe than a normal virus death rate, which statistically is what we’re encountering,” he said.

McCarthy names national reciprocity of gun laws as his top issue, and he wants to dismantle the U.S. Department of Education, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Environmental Protection Agency, and Consumer Fraud Protection Bureau.

“The list can go on and on. I think all of us need to realize that the experiment of growing the federal government has failed,” he said.

Arizona State University political science professor Kim Fridkin thinks Kelly, who is married to former U.S. Representative Gabby Giffords, also has an emotional edge over McSally in the expected general election matchup.

“I think Arizonans have warm feelings towards Kelly, given his connection with Gabby Giffords as well as his career as an astronaut,” Fridkin said.

Although the race is competitive, Kelly has a lead in fundraising, and President Trump’s popularity is waning, which helps the former Navy pilot, she said.

Arizona is shifting steadily but slowly left on the political spectrum, said University of Arizona Professor Chris Weber, largely because of growth in the Latino population.

“The demographic composition is changing dramatically,” Weber said.

Although Kelly is leading in all recent polls, he is facing a party registration deficit, which would help McSally in November, Fridkin said.

Among Arizona’s 3.9 million registered voters, 1.4 million (35%) are Republicans, 1.3 million (32%) Democrats, and 1.2 million registered otherwise, including independents and Green Party members. Fewer than 1% (33,000) are Libertarians, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.

The 2018 primary saw 33% turnout – the highest in 20 years for an Arizona primary. Polls consistently show Kelly leading.

In one online survey of registered voters July 19-23, 53% said they intend to vote for Kelly, while McSally drew just 35% support. Thirteen percent planned to vote for another candidate or did not know, according to that poll by Redfield & Wilton Strategies, a London firm.

Other recent polls also show Kelly leading by as much as 16 points. A July 24-26 Change Research poll had Kelly leading McSally 47% to 45%, while a Morning Consult poll taken July 17-26 gave Kelly a 52% to 36% lead.

Although Redfield & Wilton didn’t ask about the primary, their survey showed that almost two-thirds of voters (64%) plan to vote by mail in November, while 30% plan to vote in person. Arizona voters also have the option of voting early in person or dropping off mail ballots on election day.

About a third of voters (35%) are comfortable or very comfortable voting in person, and slightly more (38%) are uncomfortable or very uncomfortable showing up at polls. But 59% of Arizona voters support or strongly support an all-mail November election, and just 22% oppose or strongly oppose it, the survey showed.

Polls open at 6 a.m. Tuesday and close at 7 p.m.

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