In Arizona’s Senate Race, Blake Masters and Mark Kelly Battle Over Their Preferred Kinds of Big Government
As Democratic candidates in a few battleground states now see their leads slipping ahead of the midterms, Arizona’s Senate election stands out as one that could very well tip the body’s balance in either party’s favor. FiveThirtyEight notes that incumbent Sen. Mark Kelly (D–Ariz.) is currently polling at 48.4 percent compared to Republican candidate Blake Masters’ 46.8 percent.
That puts Kelly, a veteran and former astronaut elected in 2020 to fill Republican Sen. John McCain’s seat, and Masters, a first-time candidate and former Thiel Capital COO backed by former President Donald Trump, at their closest numbers since July. Though their backgrounds and political positions have seemingly little in common, either one winning Arizona’s Senate race will displease supporters of small government and individual freedom.
Kelly is by no means the most extreme Democrat running for a Senate seat this election. Earlier this year, he bucked President Joe Biden and pushed him to delay the end of the pandemic Title 42 order, which allowed border officials to immediately expel migrants in the name of public health. Kelly introduced the bipartisan Border Patrol Enhancement Act, which proposed a Border Patrol hiring expansion and pay increase for agents. He was one of just eight Democrats in the Senate to vote to overturn the federal mask mandate on airplanes and public transportation. Among Democratic senators, Kelly has voted in line with Biden’s position the seventh-lowest percentage of the time.
Still, that has resulted in Kelly aligning with Biden 94.5 percent of the time, translating to support for massive expansions of government spending. Kelly was a key negotiator behind the CHIPS Act, which lobbed $52 billion in subsidies toward an already healthy domestic semiconductor industry. He voted for the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which paid people not to work and fueled inflation. A “moderate,” bipartisan senator in today’s political climate still favors big-ticket legislation.
Kelly supported Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, which raises taxes—including on households making under $200,000—and funds a massive expansion of IRS manpower. Rather than pumping the breaks on federal spending to quash inflation, Kelly cited his microchip legislation and his efforts to stop oil companies from “price gouging” as ways to lower consumer costs. And he’s proven amenable to other positions that have become largely orthodox on the left, including raising the federal minimum wage to $15 per hour and changing filibuster rules to push voting rights legislation forward.
“I don’t look, sound, feel like a conventional Washington politician,” Masters said in an interview with the Washington Examiner this week, chastening Kelly for voting “like a rubber stamp” for Biden’s policies. Masters, despite his anti-establishment overtures, favors a muscular government—one with an extensive reach into all manner of individual freedom. That tendency toward coercion puts him more in line with the illiberal left than he would care to admit.
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