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The Arizona Senate race was the 3rd-most expensive of 2022


The Arizona Senate race was the 3rd-most expensive of 2022

Nov 28, 2022 | 2:52 pm ET
By Jim Small
The Arizona Senate race was the 3rd-most expensive of 2022
Photo via iStock / Getty Images Plus

Mark Kelly’s re-election to the U.S. Senate was the third-most expensive campaign in 2022, with almost $236 million spent in the contest.

The bulk of that money came from outside groups, who spent a combined $128 million, according to researchers at Open Secrets, a project of the Center for Responsive Politics that tracks money in politics.

Some $40 million of that outside spending was aimed at defeating Kelly, a Democrat who was seeking election to a full six-year term in the Senate after winning a special election in 2020 to fill out the remaining two years of the term that John McCain was elected to in 2016. 

The anti-Kelly spending outpaced the spending against GOP nominee Blake Masters, which clocked in at $38 million. The lion’s share of that spending against Masters — almost $25 million — came from Senate Majority PAC, the political arm of the Senate’s Democratic leaders.That PAC chipped in another $3.7 million boosting Kelly’s candidacy.

The largest outside spender in Masters’ corner was Saving Arizona PAC, a committee created to back Masters and funded mostly by billionaire tech entrepreneur Peter Thiel. Masters, a Tucson native, was an executive for Thiel’s companies in San Francisco before returning to Arizona and entering politics to run for the Senate.

The Thiel-funded PAC spent $13 million backing Masters before the August primary election and another $8.6 million attacking Kelly in advance of the November general election.

National Democratic and Republican groups spent similar amounts on the race: the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee directed $10.6 million to Arizona, while the National Republican Senatorial Committee kicked in $9.9 million for its efforts here.

The outside spending was buttressed by Kelly’s deep campaign coffers. The ex-astronaut, who is married to former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, is a prodigious fundraiser, and his campaign had raised more than $79 million and spent more than $73 million as of mid-October, when the most recent campaign finance reports were due.

By comparison, Masters had raised only $12 million and spent about $9.4 million.

Kelly won by 125,000 votes.

While the $236 million spent in the Arizona Senate race is a record for an election contest in the Grand Canyon State, it paled in comparison to what was spent in the Pennsylvania and Georgia Senate races.

Nearly $375 million was spent in the Pennsylvania contest between Democrat John Fetterman, who won, and Republican Mehmet Oz. And in Georgia, nearly $335 million was spent in the race between incumbent Raphael Warnock, a Democrat, and his GOP challenger Herschel Walker.

The Georgia figures will only go higher: Neither candidate won a majority in November, and the two candidates are squaring off in a run-off election next month.