There’s one statistic Sen. Mark Kelly can’t run from: The Arizona Democrat has voted with President Joe Biden’s radical agenda more than 94 percent of the time. With a White House approval rating below 43 percent, that’s not a number to run on during an election cycle historically hostile to the president’s party in power.
On the Arizona debate stage Thursday night, Republican Senate nominee Blake Masters made it a point right out of the gate to highlight the incumbent Democrat’s record being in lockstep with the Biden administration.
“Sen. Mark Kelly has messed everything up. Our border is in chaos. We’ve got drugs and illegal aliens just pouring in. Crime is up. The cost of groceries, actually the cost of everything you need to live, keeps going up and up,” Masters said in his opening statement. “It wasn’t like this two years ago. What changed? Joe Biden took over, and in Washington, Mark Kelly backed Joe Biden every single time.”
Kelly turning the traditionally red seat into one of the most reliable votes for the White House agenda has already been the subject of numerous ads in the state, and for good reason. In 2020, Biden carried Arizona by fewer than 43,000 votes, an even narrower margin than Kelly, who was elected the same year by a margin of fewer than 80,000.
While Masters scored quick hits on crime and inflation in the debate’s first quarter, the knock-out blow came when Kelly couldn’t answer in the affirmative when presented with a critical question posed by the Republican challenger.
“I just want to ask one question,” Masters said, pivoting to face Kelly to his right. “Sir, have you done everything in your power to secure our southern border?”
Masters asked the question after the junior senator tried to distance himself from Biden, characterizing himself as an independent lawmaker who has “pushed back on this administration multiple times.”
When confronted on stage over his record on border security, Kelly began talking about various tours he took with law enforcement.
“That, my friend, is called evasion,” Masters interjected. “We have a wide-open southern border so if that’s the best you can do, I respectfully request you resign.”
On stage, Kelly tried to frame himself as a champion for border security, but the senator has voted to reject reinforcements for law enforcement and denied agents more equipment for drug detection. Kelly also voted to end the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, opening the migrant floodgates.
“Call me old fashioned, but I think the correct amount of illegal immigration is zero,” Masters said. Moments earlier, Masters pointed out Kelly’s vote for an army of 87,000 IRS agents in the dubiously-named Inflation Reduction Act while the Arizona lawmaker denied residents an army of agents to secure the southern border.
“Mark Kelly said no to 18,000 more border patrol agents but yes to 87,000 new IRS agents,” Masters said. “That shows you what his priorities are.”
Later in the match-up, Kelly sought to frame Masters as an extremist on abortion.
“He has supported state and national abortion bans that will deny the right for a woman to make this decision by themselves,” Kelly said.
But Masters didn’t shy away from his own platform, which is far more in line with public opinion and the rest of the developed world than the Democrat Party’s stance of taxpayer-funded, on-demand abortion for any reason at any time.
“I’m pro-life, and that means I believe in limits,” Masters said. “Now I support restrictions because I don’t believe in being extreme on this issue.”
The Republican venture capitalist branded Kelly as the “abortion radical” for sponsoring the Democrats’ legislation mandating that all 50 states legalize abortion for all nine months of pregnancy up until birth. In contrast, Masters reiterated his support for a state and federal ban on the procedure after 15 weeks, which is the policy in a bill Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., introduced in September.
When the Democrat senator was pressed on his support for late-term abortion, Kelly kept returning to his support for the now-extinct Supreme Court precedent in Roe v. Wade.
“Have you supported sixth-, seventh-, eighth-month [abortions]?,” the debate moderator asked, seeking to nail down whether the senator supported any hard limit.
“I have supported Roe v. Wade,” Kelly said in an effort to dodge his own record of voting for a law that was more extreme than the five-decade-old precedent.
Kelly tried to play down his abortion extremism by claiming that “late-term abortion only happens when there’s a serious problem.” But according to an analysis of the medical literature by the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute, the majority of late-term abortions are not performed for “maternal health complications or lethal fetal anomalies discovered late in pregnancy.”
Tristan Justice is the western correspondent for The Federalist. He has also written for The Washington Examiner and The Daily Signal. His work has also been featured in Real Clear Politics and Fox News. Tristan graduated from George Washington University where he majored in political science and minored in journalism. Follow him on Twitter at @JusticeTristan or contact him at Tristan@thefederalist.com.
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