In a contentious U.S. Senate race with national political implications, Republican Sen. Martha McSally and Democratic challenger Mark Kelly held their only scheduled debate Tuesday in Phoenix.
Topics included the COVID-19 pandemic, the military, border security, racial injustice and community policing. Sen. McSally said Kelly is tied to liberal politicians like New York Sen. Chuck Schumer and called her opponent “Counterfeit Kelly” throughout the debate.
“And you do have a choice here," McSally said. "You have somebody who’s been a fighter for you and will continue to be a fighter for Arizona. Or a counterfeit who will enable the Radical Left and their agenda to be forced on you.”
Kelly said McSally has sided with President Trump against everyday Arizonans on issues like eliminating preexisting conditions in health care and rushing through Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett before the election.
“We need independent leadership focused on solving the problems we face like beating this virus and rebuilding our economy and lowering the cost of health care and prescription drugs,” he said.
McSally ran for the Senate in 2018 and lost to Sen. Kyrsten Sinema. McSally was later appointed by Gov. Doug Ducey after the passing of Sen. John McCain. Kelly is a former astronaut and the husband of former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
Both candidates in Tuesday's debate spoke out against Trump's negative comments about McCain, even after his death. Kelly said Trump's comments were disturbing and McSally said "it pisses me off when he does it."
McSally proposed three more debates, including one in Yuma. Kelly said he was looking forward to a discussion with Univision, but did not accept nor decline any future debates.
Kelly has led in the polls but the most recent poll shows the race tightening. Both candidates have held virtual campaign events during the pandemic.
The current makeup of the U.S. Senate is 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats and two Independents who caucus with Democrats. If Kelly wins, he could be seated in time for a vote on Coney Barrett.
Following health protocols, the candidates and moderators at Tuesday's debate were socially distanced and separated by clear plastic barriers.