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

By: - November 28, 2022 12:52 pm

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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.


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Jim Small
Jim Small

Jim Small is a native Arizonan and has covered state government, policy and politics since 2004, with a focus on investigative and in-depth policy reporting, first as a reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times, then as editor of the paper and its prestigious sister publications. He has also served as the editor and executive director of the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting.