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Martha McSally cruises into general election Senate showdown with Mark Kelly
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Martha McSally cruises into general election Senate showdown with Mark Kelly

From the Southern Arizona election coverage by the Arizona Daily Star series

Candidates for U.S. Senate, Arizona: Mark Kelly, left, and Martha McSally

As expected, Arizona's two well-financed U.S. Senate candidates officially advanced to the general election Tuesday with landslide victories in afterthought primary contests.

Democrat Mark Kelly faced only write-in candidates, while incumbent Republican Sen. Martha McSally easily dispatched a challenge from right-wing Phoenix-area businessman Daniel McCarthy.

Expect the two former combat pilots to saturate the Arizona airwaves over the next three months, thanks to two of the nation’s largest campaign war chests and an avalanche of ads from outside groups.

McCarthy ran a mostly self-financed, $350,000 campaign that featured yard signs, radio ads and loud accusations that McSally was ducking him. In the end, though, he didn’t pose much of a threat. More than three-quarters of Republican voters chose McSally over McCarthy, according to unofficial results Tuesday night.

“Tonight’s record turnout of conservative Arizonans proves that Republicans are ready to fight for the future of our country and win in November,” McSally said in a statement released after the outcome of her primary contest was clear. “It is an honor to fight for Arizonans, and together with Republican leadership, we will be able to rebuild and restore Arizona and our country."

The GOP incumbent was so confident she would get past the primary that she launched a trio of attack ads late last week targeting Kelly.

She stayed on the offensive Tuesday night, bashing her general election opponent and the rest of the Democratic Party for what she called their "radical agenda."

For his part, Kelly never mentioned McSally by name in remarks he gave just after the polls closed Tuesday to kick off the state Democratic Party’s “Mission for Arizona” virtual election night event.

Instead, he pitched himself as a political outsider with leadership and problem solving-skills honed during his career with the Navy and NASA.

“Arizonans are struggling to pay rent and put food on the table this week because Washington has failed them,” said Kelly, the husband of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. “What we need is some independent leadership that will make decisions based on science, data, and facts, and not politics.”

Kelly has already raised $45.7 million and spent $24.5 million, while McSally has raised $30 million and spent almost $20 million, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks money in U.S. politics through its website OpenSecrets.org.

The center shows another $7.5 million in outside money spent on the race so far — roughly $4 million of it on ads either supporting McSally or opposing Kelly and the remaining $3.5 million on ads either supporting Kelly or opposing McSally.

Experts are predicting a surge in outside spending for each candidate in the run-up to the general election.

The winner in November will serve until January 2023, completing the remainder of Sen. John McCain’s final term.

Gov. Doug Ducey picked McSally to replace McCain in December 2018, after his death from cancer.

Her appointment came the month after the former two-term congresswoman lost her bid for Arizona’s other senate seat to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema.

Contact reporter Henry Brean at hbrean@tucson.com or 573-4283. On Twitter: @RefriedBrean

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