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Martha McSally Concedes Arizona Senate Race To Mark Kelly

Sen. Martha McSally conceded the race for her seat to  Democratic challenger Mark Kelly on Friday. The Associated Press called the race for Kelly — now senator-elect — more than a week ago. 

McSally simply could not have overtaken Kelly, as she fell behind by far more votes than were left to count. In a statement, she congratulated Kelly and reflected on her political career, which began in the U.S. House of Representatives. 

“I will miss engaging with Arizonans to hear their challenges and how I could help when I deployed to D.C. I am so grateful for the opportunity to solve many problems through legislation, secure funding and pandemic relief for Arizona, deliver results to constituents getting the runaround from bureaucracies, and fight for the hardworking people of our amazing state.”

McSally also offered Kelly her support in the transition, but that had  already begun without her. Kelly will be sworn in on Nov. 30. He arrived in D.C. with his transition earlier this week and is working out of a temporary office he was assigned in the meantime. 

McSally was appointed to the seat by Gov. Doug Ducey in 2018 after Sen. John McCain died. Ducey first named former Sen. Jon Kyl to fill McCain’s seat, but he resigned after a few short months. 

Kelly will now serve out the remainder of McCain’s term, and again compete for the seat in 2022.  

Following McSally’s formal concession, Ducey tweeted his thanks to her, “a true patriot,” for her “phenomenal record of public service, breaking barriers all along the way.”

“My sincere congratulations to (Mark Kelly) on winning a hard-fought race,” Ducey added. “I welcome you back to public service and look forward to getting together soon and working together for AZ.”

This marks McSally’s second unsuccessful bid for the Senate. She lost to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema in 2018, a defeat she accepted sooner than she did this time around; McSally and other Republicans did not acknowledge her loss until today, even when a comeback was mathematically impossible days ago. 

Speaking to KJZZ’s The Show just hours before McSally conceded, GOP consultant and former McCain staffer Lorna Romero said the delay belonged in the category of “things that don’t make sense in 2020.”

“It’s kind of embarrassing, to be honest,” Romero said, noting McSally was further behind in her race than President Donald Trump was in his contest against now President-Elect Joe Biden. 

But Romero predicted this would not be the end for McSally in the long run. 

“Will she be successful running for another race in two to four years? Probably not,” Romero said. “I would imagine that she probably goes into the private sector and, you know, builds her career a little bit more. And then, maybe 10 years from now, she decides to run again - which she would still be pretty young at that point.”

Romero advised McSally to take a break from running for now. 

Kelly is a former astronaut and husband to former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. 

Though he’s a Democrat, Kelly ran more as an independent — as Sinema did before him in 2018. McSally, meanwhile, chose to closely align herself with Trump and his unique brand of Republicanism; a brand McCain and his widow, Cindy McCain, soundly rejected. Trump also lost Arizona to his Democratic challenger, now President-Elect Joe Biden. 

Kelly’s new transition team reflects his independent approach to the race. 

Sharon Harper, the co-chair of his transition team, is a Republican and longtime friend of the McCain family.

Harper said of the senator-elect, “Here in Arizona, he made a commitment to serve our state, not a party.”

→  More Arizona Election News

Katie Campbell is a senior producer for The Show.She is a native Floridian and graduated from the University of Florida’s College of Journalism before trading the humidity for a dry heat.Katie worked for WUFT News, the NPR and PBS affiliate housed at the college, where she reported on breaking news and elections. That experience led her to Arizona in 2015 to report for the News21 investigation “America’s Weed Rush.” She traveled from the New England region to Hawaii to reveal what worked — and what didn’t — in states’ medical marijuana programs, and hosted News21’s first podcast, “Cultivating Conversation.”She later covered courts and politics in Pinal County, exposing the misuse of asset forfeiture funds by elected officials, then kept watch over the state House of Representatives for the Arizona Capitol Times, covering everything from a statewide teacher walkout to the departure of two state representatives amid scandal.