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Arizona 2022 election: Mark Kelly leads Blake Masters in U.S. Senate race

Mark Kelly and Blake Masters
Mark Kelly (left) and Blake Masters

With control of the U.S. Senate at stake, the nation’s eyes remain locked on Arizona, where counting continues in the race between Democrat Mark Kelly and Republican challenger Blake Masters.

Kelly has extended his lead to more than 100,000 votes. But there are still more than 500,000 votes left to count statewide, and the majority of those are in Maricopa County.

In a press conference Thursday, board chairman Bill Gates said the county had planned to have at least 95 percent of the ballots counted by [Friday] — but the goalposts have changed.

"And the reason that the goalposts have changed is because — wonderful news — the great participation we had on Election Day. And in particular, we had 290,000 mail-in ballots dropped off at our vote centers on Election Day," said Gates. "That broke the previous record by 70%."

Gates and County Recorder Stephen Richer said election staff will continue working long hours tabulating votes through the holiday weekend.

It’s a race that drew massive amounts of spending in Arizona. 

Kelly took the stage at a gathering for supporters in Tucson shortly after 11 p.m. on election night.

"Arizonans are facing high costs in everything from gas and groceries to housing, our country faces threats from an emergent China and Russia’s continued aggression. And we still have a mess at our border, and a broken immigration system both of which need to be fixed," said Kelly.

Kelly said people should come together to solve those issues — rather than pointing fingers. He said he was confident about his lead but acknowledged a final count would take more time.

As the incumbent, Kelly spent tens of millions from his campaign war chest attacking Masters as an extremist who’s dangerous for Arizona, citing Masters’ positions against abortion rights and his denial of the 2020 election results.

Masters hammered Kelly over the border, inflation and gas prices, frequently tying the Democrat to President Joe Biden, whose approval has lagged ahead of the midterm election.

The race has drawn national attention ever since Kelly won the seat two years ago. Republicans see Arizona as a swing state pickup opportunity in their efforts to retake control of the Senate.

The Arizona race is one of a handful of contests that Republicans targeted in their bid to take control of what is now a 50-50 Senate. It's a test of the inroads that Kelly and other Democrats have made in a state once reliably dominated by Republicans and will offer clues about whether Democratic success here was an aberration during the Trump presidency or an enduring phenomenon.

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Ben Giles is a senior editor at KJZZ.