(NewsNation) — The tight and widely watched race for the U.S. Senate seat for Arizona has been called by NewsNation/ Decision Desk HQ in favor of incumbent Sen. Mark Kelly.
The result puts Democrats one seat away from securing control of the chamber for at least the next two years.
Kelly, a Democrat, was locked in a highly contentious bid for the Senate seat he has held since winning a special election in 2020 triggered by the death of Republican Sen. John McCain. In 2022, he was challenged by venture capitalist, Republican Blake Masters.
Votes will still be tallied into the weekend, but Kelly has held on to a lead over Masters as the count has been updated since Tuesday night.
Masters said he refuses to concede, posting to Twitter on Saturday morning that the race isn’t over until every single vote gets counted.
“For my people who knocked on doors in 115-degree heat, and for the million+ Arizonians who put their faith in me, we are going to make sure that every legal vote is continued,” Masters’ tweet said. “If, at the end, Senator Kelly has more of them than I do, then I will congratulate him on a hard-fought victory. But voters decide, not the media; let’s count the votes.”
In a statement Friday night, the Republican National Committee criticized Maricopa County’s counting process, saying the election has “exposed deep flaws” in it.
“Arizona deserves better — transparency, certainty, efficiently — and most importantly, an accurate and prompt announcement of election results that can be accepted by all voters,” the RNC said.
It demanded the county institute around-the-clock shifts to finish the count, and threatened legal action.
Kelly is a former U.S. Navy pilot and NASA astronaut and husband to retired Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. Masters migrated from venture capitalism to the political sphere with the help of tech billionaire and GOP megadonor, Peter Thiel.
Masters built a platform on former President Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was fraught with voter fraud, a claim with no basis in fact. However, in a debate with Kelly, he appeared to deemphasize the narrative by claiming he believed the federal government “forced” Big Tech companies to censor information that would have pushed Trump towards victory. There is no evidence for this claim either. Meanwhile, Kelly sought to distance himself from President Joe Biden, whose approval ratings were at an all-time low amid skyrocketing inflation.
Immigration has been an important issue for Arizona voters, and Masters sought to paint Kelly and President Joe Biden as ineffective at securing the southern border. In a debate, Masters pointed out Kelly voted against a GOP amendment that would have provided funding for 18,000 more border patrol agents. Kelly shot back that he helped secure more than $1 billion in funding which included technology, border barriers and more agents.
On the issue of abortion, Masters took a hardline stance before the primaries, calling it “demonic,” but seemed to soften his stance. He later said he supported the 15-week ban passed in Arizona earlier in the year and similar federal proposal by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). Kelly said he supported codifying Roe v. Wade into law.
Kelly held a massive lead over Masters when it came to fundraising and spending, campaign finance records revealed. Kelly raised more than $73 million and spent more than $61 million, compared to Masters’ $9.6 million raised and $6.8 million spent. Masters did get a boost, through Trump’s private donor list — and split donations with the former president 99-1.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.