Following the death in office of incumbent Republican U.S. Senator John McCain on August 25, 2018, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey appointed former U.S. Senator Jon Kyl to fill the former’s seat. However, Kyl, soon after taking office, announced he would resign on December 31, 2018. As a result, Ducey subsequently announced that outgoing U.S. Representative Martha McSally, another Republican, would be appointed to fill the seat following Kyl’s resignation.
McSally was sworn in as the state’s junior U.S. Senator on January 3, 2019, triggering a special election in November 2020.
Martha would win her party’s primary but be defeated in the general election by Democrat and former astronaut Mark Kelly, the husband of former U.S. House Representative Gabby Giffords, who was shot and nearly killed in an assassination attempt in Tucson on January 8, 2011. Six people were slain in the shooting.
Kelly’s foe, McSally, started her general election campaign in an advantageous position.
She was an incumbent who had made a name for herself as a congresswoman and by unsuccessfully running for Arizona’s other Senate seat two years prior. Moreover, she was Republican in a historically right-leaning state and had the backing of then-President Donald Trump. Nevertheless, she lost to Kelly (51.2% – 48.8%). And, of course, Trump, himself, was upended by Joe Biden in the state (49.4% – 49.1%).
The seat, which was won by McCain in 2016, has been occupied by 4 Arizonans (McCain, Kyl, McSally, and Kelly) in an unstable term that’ll finally end in January 2023.
Will Mark Kelly win re-election in November 2022?
2022 Arizona Senate Race prediction: Kelly wins by at least 3 percentage points
Incumbents always have a slight advantage; Given he flipped the seat when he wasn’t the incumbent, he’ll only run stronger as an occupant. And unless there’s a drastic negative shift towards Democrats, he shouldn’t be impacted if they underperform in the 2022 midterms.
In the past 30 years, the party out of presidential power has usually made substantial gains in midterm elections during a president’s first term. And given Democrats’ extremely slim margins of control, the assumption that Democrats will lose at least one if not both chambers of Congress seems like a safe bet at the moment. However, I’m not at all convinced we’ll see a change in control of either chamber; But, if we see substantial Republican gains, it’ll more likely take place in the House than Senate.
Given Kelly resonates so well with Arizonans, he could probably switch parties and still win this race so long as he didn’t take a sharp right turn; so don’t expect him to be expelled in 2022, even if the midterms are a referendum on Democrats.
Third, Arizona is no longer the bastion of conservatism it once was so Kelly’s Senate flip last year was far from surprising. Even before he and Biden won there in 2020, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema defeated McSally in 2018 in a race for the state’s other Senate seat. Sinema’s win served as an indication of things to come in a state that’s getting bluer by election cycle.
Remember Virginia? It was a reliable GOP stronghold for decades until 2008. The commonwealth literally changed from solid red to solid blue, completely skipping purple status.
Think of Arizona as Virginia No. 2. Well, almost.
It won’t make the transition as quickly as Virginia but it’s certainly well on its way.
Of 57 Kelly vs McSally polls in 2020, the latter finished ahead in just four – and in only one of the last 54. And while Kelly’s margin of victory of 2.4 percent wasn’t the 5- or 6-point win pollsters expected, it was a clear victory. He outpaced McSally by 79,000 votes even Biden though defeated Trump there by just 10,457.
Hence, a fair number of Trump’s voters or supporters of third-party presidential candidates seemingly preferred the likable Kelly to the GOP incumbent – not a good sign for Kelly’s opponent in 2022.
We’re still a year and a half away from the 2022 Arizona Senate race, but the latest polls, released by OH Predictive Insights on May 13, have Kelly well ahead of a list of possible opponents.
|Arizona Senate – McGuire vs. Kelly||OH Predictive Insights||Kelly 44, McGuire 35|
|Arizona Senate – Brnovich vs. Kelly||OH Predictive Insights||Kelly 46, Brnovich 36|
|Arizona Senate – Yee vs. Kelly||OH Predictive Insights||Kelly 45, Yee 35|
|Arizona Senate – Biggs vs. Kelly||OH Predictive Insights||Kelly 47, Biggs 36|
|Arizona Senate – Lake vs. Kelly||OH Predictive Insights||Kelly 46, Lake 35|
|Arizona Senate – Ward vs. Kelly||OH Predictive Insights||Kelly 47, Ward 36|
|Arizona Senate – McCain vs. Kelly||OH Predictive Insights||Kelly 43, McCain 29|
Again, Kelly probably won’t win by the margins you see above BUT he will triumph at least somewhat comfortably so long as he doesn’t do anything major that’ll put him at odds with the majority of his constituents.
What’s your 2022 Arizona Senate race prediction?Tags: 2022 Arizona Senate Race, 2022 midterms