Mark Kelly; Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ) (AP/Evan Agostini/Getty/Mark Wilson)

Mark Kelly tops Martha McSally in new poll: Could Arizona soon have two Democratic senators?

A new survey shows Kelly with 46 percent of the vote in its predictive poll, compared to McSally's 41 percent


Matthew Rozsa
August 21, 2019 9:41PM (UTC)

Former astronaut Mark Kelly has pulled ahead of incumbent Republican Sen. Martha McSally in a new poll for Arizona's special Senate election in 2020.

OH Predictive Insights, a Phoenix-based polling company, revealed Tuesday that Kelly is now ahead of McSally. The survey showed Kelly with 46 percent of the vote in its predictive poll, compared to McSally's 41 percent. In addition to his career as an astronaut, Kelly is also a former fighter pilot and the husband of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., who was nearly assassinated while meeting with constituents in Tucson in 2011.

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According to the creators of the poll, Kelly only has room to grow in his standing, while McSally is a known quantity. As the survey noted:

“Both are former fighter pilots although if our latest poll is any indication – astronauts fly higher than pilots, ” said Mike Noble, Chief of Research and Managing Partner of Phoenix-based research company OH Predictive Insights. “We are still in August 2019 and the Arizona Senate race is already exciting – expect the numbers to start moving when these two fundraising juggernauts start spending heavy and hard.”

The most interesting dynamic to watch in this early-developing Senate race is that McSally is defined and Kelly still has room to grow. The chart below shows McSally and Kelly’s favorability breakdown.

The survey found that 44 percent of Arizonans either had a very favorable or somewhat favorable view of Kelly, while 25 percent either had a very unfavorable or somewhat unfavorable view of him, leaving 31 percent undecided. By contrast, 47 percent of Arizonans had either a very favorable or somewhat favorable view of Martha McSally, 45 percent either had a very unfavorable or somewhat unfavorable view of her and only 8 percent are undecided.

In a video announcing his candidacy in February, Kelly discussed being an identical twin, having a mother who worked in law enforcement, serving in the military during Operation Desert Storm and the heartbreak of nearly losing his wife during the assassination attempt.

"You know I thought then that I had the risky job. Turned out that you were the one who had the risky job," Kelly said in the video with Giffords by his side.

Kelly then vowed to focus on climate change, health care, income inequality and job creation. Kelly and Giffords have also been proactive in fighting for stronger gun control laws, including playing a key role in the ultimately unsuccessful attempt to pass gun control legislation in the Senate during former President Barack Obama's second term.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey appointed McSally to complete the last two years of the late Sen. John McCain's term in December. Earlier, in the 2018 midterm elections, McSally narrowly lost to now-Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., by less than 2 percent of the total vote.

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In his announcement, Ducey said that McSally "has put service first — leading in the toughest of fights and at the toughest of times."


Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a breaking news writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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