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

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published August 21, 2019 5:41PM (EDT)

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

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.

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.

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


By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a professional writer whose work has appeared in multiple national media outlets since 2012 and exclusively at Salon since 2016. His diverse interests are reflected in his interview, including: President Jimmy Carter (1977-1981), Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak (1999-2001), animal scientist and autism activist Temple Grandin, inventor Ernő Rubik, comedian Bill Burr ("F Is for Family"), novelist James Patterson ("The President's Daughter"), epidemiologist Monica Gandhi, theoretical cosmologist Janna Levin, voice actor Rob Paulsen ("Animaniacs"), mRNA vaccine pioneer Katalin Karikó, philosopher of science Vinciane Despret, actor George Takei ("Star Trek"), climatologist Michael E. Mann, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (2013-present), dog cognition researcher Alexandra Horowitz, Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson (2012, 2016), comedian and writer Larry Charles ("Seinfeld"), Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman (2000), Ambassador Michael McFaul (2012-2014), economist Richard Wolff, director Kevin Greutert ("Saw VI"), model Liskula Cohen, actor Rodger Bumpass ("SpongeBob Squarepants"), Senator John Hickenlooper (2021-present), Senator Martin Heinrich (2013-present), Egyptologist Richard Parkinson, Rep. Eric Swalwell (2013-present), media entrepreneur Dan Abrams, actor R. J. Mitte ("Breaking Bad"), theoretical physicist Avi Loeb, biologist and genomics entrepreneur William Haseltine, comedian David Cross ("Scary Movie 2"), linguistics consultant Paul Frommer ("Avatar"), Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (2007-2015), computer engineer and Internet co-inventor Leonard Kleinrock and right-wing insurrectionist Roger Stone.

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