Kelly warns ‘wheels’ could ‘come off our democracy’ as Masters tries to tie him to Biden in Arizona Senate debate



CNN

While trying to distance himself from his own party, Arizona Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly warned during an hour-long debate Thursday that the “wheels” could “come off our democracy” if candidates like his GOP opponent, Trump-backed Blake Masters , elected in November.

But Masters aggressively pushed back at those attacks, portraying Kelly, who is running for a full six-year term, as a rubber stamp for the Biden administration, while refusing to acknowledge that he has tried to moderate his views on abortion and the presidential election in 2020. .

The Arizona Senate race is among the most competitive in the country, and with the chamber currently split 50-50, every race matters. But Kelly appears to have strengthened his position over the past two months as Masters has struggled to keep up with the Democrat’s fundraising prowess. A new CNN poll released Thursday found 51% of likely voters behind Kelly, with 45% backing Masters.

Masters — a venture capitalist and political novice who won the primary in large part because of former President Donald Trump’s endorsement and the financial backing of billionaire Peter Thiel (his former boss) — released a campaign video last year proclaiming that he believed that Trump won the 2020 election. But after the primary, he removed language from his website that contained the false claim that the election was stolen.

Masters tried to maneuver around questions about the election during Thursday’s debate — days before Trump, whose 2020 loss in Arizona set off a cascade of voter denials in the state, heads there to campaign for Masters and other Republicans.

When the moderator asked him if President Joe Biden, who narrowly carried Arizona, is the “legally elected president of the United States,” Masters replied, “Joe Biden is absolutely the president. I mean, my God, have you seen the gas prices lately?”

“Legally chosen?” interjected the moderator.

“I’m not trying to fool you,” Masters said. “He is duly sworn and certified. He is the legitimate president. He is in the White House and unfortunately for all of us.”

When the moderator followed up using Trump’s language, asking if the election was “stolen” or “rigged in any way” through vote counting or election results, Masters replied, “Yeah, I haven’t seen evidence of that.”

But Kelly argued that Masters has advocated “conspiracies and lies that have no place in our democracy.”

“I’m worried about what’s going to happen here,” Kelly said. “This election in 2024. I think we could end up in a situation where the wheels come off our democracy and it’s because of people like Blake Masters who question the integrity of an election.”

Masters insisted he does not want to get rid of mail-in voting, as Kelly claimed. He said he believed military service members should be able to send ballots back from overseas and said he would be fine with other voters sending their ballots back in the mail if they included a copy of their driver’s license.

Masters and Kelly repeatedly clashed over immigration, with Masters claiming that Kelly supports “open borders” and Kelly dismissing these attacks as he insisted that he had brought more resources to Arizona to deal with this issue.

When asked if he had done enough to address immigration issues, Kelly distanced himself from national Democrats.

“When I came to Washington, DC, one of the first things I realized was that the Democrats don’t understand this issue. And the Republicans will just talk about it, complain about it, but not actually do anything about it. It will they just politicize. We heard that tonight from my opponent Blake Masters.”

Masters charged that Biden and Kelly have rolled out the “welcome mat” for migrants. “We treat these people better than we treat our own U.S. military service members. I think that’s shameful.”

Kelly said he has repeatedly pushed back against the Biden administration on immigration issues, including when the administration planned to end Title 42, the pandemic policy that allowed Border Patrol agents to send migrants back to their home countries.

“I’ve stood up to Democrats when they’re wrong on this issue … including the president.”

“When the president decided he was going to do something stupid about this and change the rules,” Kelly said, “I told him he was wrong.”

Some of the sharpest exchanges were on abortion, when moderator and Liberal candidate Marc Victor pointed out that Masters scrubbed some of the language about his anti-abortion views from his website as he tried to pivot towards the general election.

Abortion rights have been the subject of fierce controversy in Arizona since the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade because there are conflicting abortion laws in the state — leading to debate over which one should take precedence.

The state legislature passed a 15-week ban earlier this year that does not include exceptions for rape or incest, only medical emergencies. Masters has said he supports that plan, which was signed by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey.

But Arizona also had a law on the books before the state banning nearly all abortions, which was mandated in 1973 after the Roe decision. A Pima County Superior Court judge recently ruled it could go back into effect at the urging of state GOP prosecutors.

Kelly argued that Masters wants to make decisions for women in Arizona and curtail their rights. “I think we all know guys like this,” Kelly said, also blaming Masters for supporting a national ban on abortion after 15 weeks that has been proposed by South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham.

“You know, guys who think they know better than everybody else about everything,” Kelly continued.

“What I’m doing is I’m protecting your constitutional rights,” he added.

When the moderator pressed Kelly to explain what limits he would support on abortion, Kelly said he supports the kind of framework envisioned in the Roe v. Wade decision, where “late-term abortion in this country only happens when there is a serious problem.”

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