ARIZONA -- Sen. Mark Kelly is projected to win re-election, ABC News reports, securing a full six-year term to the Senate after pitching himself as an independent-minded candidate with bipartisan success, and casting his opponent, Republican Blake Masters, backed by former President Donald Trump, as too extreme for Arizona.
Democrats are closer to maintaining their slim majority in the Senate since the junior senator held his seat.
Kelly, a former NASA astronaut and Navy combat pilot, who is married to former Rep. Gabby Giffords, ran a well-funded campaign with nearly $80 million fundraised to Masters' $12 million. In a tranche of TV ads, Kelly told Arizonans he's focused on job creation, protecting abortion rights, and securing the southern border, supporting barriers on the southern border "when appropriate." He said he stands up to President Joe Biden and Democrats "when they're wrong."
Masters, a 36-year-old venture capitalist from Tucson backed by Trump and tech billionaire Peter Thiel, went after Kelly on loyalty to Biden, record-high border crossings, fentanyl deaths and inflation.
Kelly, meanwhile, used Masters' words from the primary trail against him, claiming Masters would support a federal abortion ban, privatizing social security, and spread baseless doubts about American elections since he has alleged, without evidence, that the 2020 presidential race was corrupt.
Kelly also argued that Masters would be beholden to Trump, who Arizonans rejected in 2020, though by his slimmest of losing margins. In the final days of Kelly's campaign, he included in his stump speech a mention of a phone call Trump made to Masters after their Senate debate, when Trump told him he should've gone harder on the "rigged" election conspiracy theory.
With Trump's endorsement in June, Masters had beat out five other Republican candidates in the August primary, but after swinging far-right to stand out in the bunch, he faced criticism for an apparent pivot, including scrubbing his website to soften stances on key issues.
Masters told supporters Thursday that he would "come back and win," but was seemed disappointed as early as Election Night with vote drops, seeing as he didn't take the stage before supporters once.
Arizonans, ultimately, stuck with the incumbent.
"No matter how the rest of the results shake out, our government will remain closely divided with a lot more to do. That can feel daunting. But that's democracy," Kelly said Tuesday at a watch party in Tucson. "The way to solve these problems isn't by pointing fingers and dividing people. It's by listening and finding common ground."
It's a message of unity that clearly resonated with Arizona's electorate, who also pride themselves on being Independent and willing to split a ticket. And it's another blow to Trump.