Sen. Kelly thanks supporters in Phoenix for electing him to full six-year term
By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services
PHOENIX -- U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly promised to "put (Arizona) ahead of politics'' as he thanked supporters Saturday for electing him to a full six-year term.
In a victory speech in the courtyard of a Mexican cafe in Phoenix, Kelly repeatedly invoked the name of John McCain whose seat he was elected to in 2020 to fill the last two years of McCain's term after he died in office. Kelly, whose campaign barely mentioned he was a Democrat, said he is following the "legacy of building bridges'' of McCain, a Republican, who was known for bucking party orthodoxy.
Kelly's victory over Republican Blake Masters puts the Democrats within one vote of being able to retain control of the Senate. But to get to 50 -- with Vice President Kamala Harris able to break a tie -- Democrats need to win either of the current outstanding races in Nevada and Georgia.
He wasn't the only Democrat in a statewide race who has clinched victory even as votes are still being counted.
Adrian Fontes on was outpolling Republican Mark Finchem in the race for secretary of state by more than 118,000 votes.
There were still about 370,000 votes yet to be tallied on Saturday.
But Finchem would need to pick up at least two out of every three remaining to take the lead, a pattern that was not emerging as Maricopa County began releasing the votes of those who took their early ballots to the polls on Election Day. Those are the voters that Finchem and GOP gubernatorial hopeful Kari Lake repeatedly said were supposed to skew heavily Republican.
Only thing is, the batch of those "late-early'' ballots released late Friday actually went the other way, giving close to four votes to Democrats for every three that went to Republicans. Plus new votes votes from Pima County were trending 2-1 Democrat.
Despite that Finchem has yet to concede, insisting there is a path to victory.
"Those were from the blue areas,'' he said in a Twitter post of the nearly 75,000 new Maricopa ballots tallied Friday, "meaning the next drops should be even redder.''
Even if those "next drops'' can't help Finchem, they will determine whether Lake can overcome what on Saturday afternoon was a nearly 32,000-vote lead by Democrat Katie Hobbs. That contest remains too close to call.
The same is true in the race for attorney general where Democrat Kris Mayes is up by more than 19,000 votes over Republican Abe Hamadeh.
And Kathy Hoffman, the incumbent Democratic state schools chief, has just a 6,600 vote lead over Republican Tom Horne.
But the fact that Democrats were leading in every statewide race except for treasurer, where incumbent Kimberly Yee was handily defeating Martin Quezada, showed that the "red wave'' that Republicans had promised was coming failed to materialize.
It also did not hurt that Kelly, running in a state where registered Republicans outnumber Democrats, underplayed his own party affiliation. He even repeatedly made the point of saying that he is not a loyalist and has stood up to President Biden on issues where he disagrees with the president, particularly on border security.
There also was no sign of the president on the campaign trial in Arizona. But Kelly, speaking to reporters after his speech, sidestepped the question of whether he purposely distanced himself from Biden during the campaign.
"What I did was run the campaign like I did last time, which is getting out, talking to Arizonans about what they need, and then trying to deliver,'' he said. And Kelly said that strategy "was pretty evident in the results.''
On the other side of the equation was the question of whether Kelly believes that Masters was hampered by being endorsed by former President Trump.
"I think we have lived through some challenging, divisive times here,'' he responded.
But Kelly, in his speech, took pains to criticize those who focus on those divisions, though he didn't mention Trump or his followers by name.
"We've seen the consequences that come when leaders refuse to accept the truth and focus more on conspiracies of the past than solving the challenges that we face today,'' he said.
And Kelly said his own victory is proof that's not what people want.
"I think Arizonans want people that are going to work hard and are not going to try to divide us,'' he said.
"Lately we've had some folks running for office that it became a thing about 'them against us,' '' Kelly said. "And that's not the way the world works. And it shouldn't.''
In fact, Kelly claimed he was congratulated on his victory by some of his Senate Republican colleagues, though he would not name names.
The senator said he is focused on several key issues.
"I think the national security issues that we're facing right now in the president's meeting with (China) President Xi I think on Monday, this is at the top of my list,'' Kelly said. He also specifically mentioned the ongoing water supply problems and the need to craft some sort of resolution to deal with the Colorado River.
"We cannot let Lake Mead get to min-power pool and dead-pool,'' Kelly said. He said Arizona already has stepped up and is taking less water from the river.
"But California hasn't been very generous with their partnership here,'' he said. "And they need to step up and do more.''
Masters has not yet conceded the race, saying on Twitter he wants to "make sure that every legal vote is counted.''
"If, at the end, Senator Kelly has more of them than I do, then I will congratulate him on a hard-fought victory,'' he said. "But voters decide, not the media.''
Neither has Trump who in a post on Truth Social, demanded a new election. He said that "idiot, and possibly corrupt officials have lost control of the tainted election in Arizona.''
And Masters, in an appearance on Fox News before the race was called for Kelly, said his campaign was hampered by lack of funds from the Senate Leadership Fund controlled by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
"McConnell decided to spent millions of dollars attacking a fellow Republican in Alaska instead of helping me defeat Mark Kelly,'' Masters said. That refers to the fact that the fund booked more than $7 million worth of ad time in the Alaska primary to help incumbent Lisa Murkowski fend off a challenge from Kelly Tshibaka who had been endorsed by Trump.
Kelly said he has not heard from Masters.
"I look forward to talking to him,'' he said. "I think this was a very competitive race and he ran a good race and ultimately, the voters made a decision.''
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