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Kelly remains ahead of Masters in Arizona race for the Senate

With 82% of the vote in, Sen. Mark Kelly is ahead of his Republican opponent Blake Masters

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This combination of photos shows Arizona Republican Senate candidate Blake Masters, left, and Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., before a televised debate in Phoenix, Oct. 6, 2022.

Ross D. Franklin, Associated Press

Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., leads his Republican opponent Blake Masters with 82% of the vote counted in a race that is key to which party controls the Senate.

“I am feeling confident tonight,” Kelly said Tuesday at his election night watch party.

As of Friday morning, Kelly was leading Masters 51.7% to 46.1%. Libertarian Party candidate Mark Victor had claimed 2.1% of the vote.

The Masters campaign remained confident Masters would win with the remaining ballots outstanding. Election officials have reported that ballot-counting in the state is slowed by the need to match signatures on mail-in ballots to voter registration signatures. A large number of ballots were also delivered on Election Day, rather than in early voting.

Reuters reported Thursday that Arizona workers in the state’s most populous county had a backlog of more than 400,000 uncounted ballots and would continue to work through the weekend counting ballots.

Arizona could decide which party controls the Senate along with Georgia and Nevada, which also haven’t been called. Democrats flipped Pennsylvania, where John Fetterman defeated Republican Mehmet Oz. In Nevada Friday,

Kelly campaigned as a moderate Democrat while Masters tied Kelly to President Joe Biden. Advertising from conservative political groups blamed Biden and Kelly for crime, inflation and high gas prices. Polling found Kelly with a narrow advantage, but the race was considered a toss-up.

More than $189 million was spent on the campaign, the third most expensive U.S. Senate race in the country this year, according to AdImpact, an ad-tracking firm.

Kelly won a special election in 2020 to fill the remainder of the late Sen. John McCain’s term in office. His win gave the state two Democratic U.S. senators for the first time since the 1950s.

Masters is a former chief operating officer at Thiel Capital, a venture capital firm. Thiel Capital’s founder, Peter Thiel, donated $15 million to Masters’ campaign in the primary.

Unlike Arizona’s Democratic candidates who largely campaigned by themselves, Masters campaigned with his ticket, appearing at rallies and events with former President Donald Trump and Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake.

Masters has said he believes former Trump won in the 2020 election. He received Trump’s endorsement and an endorsement from the Libertarian candidate Marc Victor who dropped out of the race, but not before early voting already began.