McSally, a former fighter pilot and member of the House of Representatives, was named to the Senate in December 2018, weeks after losing another close Senate race to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema. Arizona Governor Doug Ducey named it after McCain’s death in hopes that it could protect him in this year’s special election for the GOP.
Kelly has never held public office, but the Democrats wanted him to run for office for years, and he turned out to be a prolific fundraiser, raising a whopping $ 90 million through September, while McSally raised $ 57 million over the same period.
Prior to running for the Senate, Kelly served in the Navy and became an advocate for stricter gun laws after Giffords was shot and killed in a 2011 assassination attempt. McSally served two terms in the House of Representatives before running for the Senate in 2018. He lost 2 percentage points and immediately won an appointment to the other seat of the state.
There are only two years left in the term McCain won in 2016, and there will be another race for that Senate seat in Arizona in 2022.
Arizona has emerged as a battlefield state in recent years after a major demographic shift. A growing Latino population, migration from California, and changing party affiliations among white college graduates have all helped loosen the GOP’s hold on the state.
During the race, Kelly compared McSally to Trump, who lost ground in a state he won by almost 4 points in 2016, while McSally tried to tie Kelly to more liberal Democratic Party members.
As a Senator, McSally has been closely associated with the President. But sometimes she tried to distance herself. At a debate in October, McSally declined to say outright whether she was proud to support Trump, saying instead that she was “proud to fight for Arizona every day”.
As on other Senate battlefields, much of the race centered on the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the broader positions of healthcare candidates. McSally criticized Kelly for supporting an option for public health insurance, while Kelly punished McSally for voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act while she was in the house.
McSally promised to protect pre-existing conditions, although Kelly said the pledge was hollow given McSally’s support for GOP legislation that would have lifted that protection.