Analysis: AZ Senate Race


Spending in the 2020 election is heating up particularly in races for critical seats in the Senate. Arizona is an interesting race to follow, given that as recently as 2018 both seats were held by the Republican senators John McCain and Jeff Flake. In 2018, when Senator McCain passed from cancer, he left open a seat for appointment by the governor. Then, Jeff Flake retired in the beginning of 2019. Former Arizona state representative Martha McSally ran for, and lost Flake’s seat, and was then appointed by Governor Doug Ducey to McCain’s seat for the 116th Congress. Now she is running again to defend this seat.

Arizona Senate Spending

In 2018, McSally fought and lost to Kyrsten Sinema, who became the first Democratic Senator for Arizona since 1995. Now McSally is facing a tough election against Democratic candidate Mark Kelly, a former astronaut who has previously campaigned for gun control. Kelly’s spending right now swamps McSally’s in terms of money booked. Kelly’s campaign and the advertisers supporting him have more than $5M booked in advertisements for the final week of the election alone. This in turn adds up to an impressive $20M total in the month of October. Looking at month by month spending since May, Kelly has kept this lead.

az spending

When we look further at the individual groups that make up support for Kelly, we find that his campaign alone is booking around $1.7M in advertising for the final week. Current data also finds that Kelly’s campaign has booked well in advance while McSally’s campaign has not yet placed advertising beyond August. It is looks like McSally might make up at least a significant amount of the gap in the coming weeks. Still, her fundraising has significantly lagged Kelly, who as of mid-July had twice as much cash on hand. A look at major spending over the general election by campaigns and advertisers provides a helpful perspective. Coupled with this cash advantage, Kelly has maintained a significant polling lead. We will continue to track spending in the final months of the election.


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