Early voting in the Arizona primary is underway as Republican Senate candidates squared off in a tense debate Wednesday night.
The debate, organized by the conservative television network Newsmax, just days before former President Donald Trump campaigns in the state, was attended by venture capitalist Blake Masters, businessman Jim Lamon and retired Army Major General US Air Michael McGuire.
Republican candidatesto take on Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Kelly, who is considered one of the most vulnerable Democrats in the evenly divided Senate, as Republicans seek to retake control in the midterm elections.
With less than three weeks to go before the primary, recent polls suggest the race could go all the way. Advertising spending by the major candidates and their supporters is turning the Arizona GOP Senate primary intomain campaigns of this cycle.
While the announcements have become increasingly negative, the final primary debate also saw many attacks. Masters and Lamon traded sharp words during the hour-long debate as the two look to gain an advantage in recent days.
A recent survey OH Predictive Insights showed Trump-backed candidate Masters leading Lamon by seven points. But more than a third of voters in the survey also said they remain undecided.
Lamon said Arizona voters don’t want a “young politician” in Washington, DC, an apparent blow to his 35-year-old Masters opponent.
“Don’t send any more young politicians and lawyers, guys, send someone who has been through the true rigors of American society and work,” Lamon said.
He also called Masters, who is backed by big tech billionaire and PayPal co-founder Peter Theil, a “California globalist.”
Masters responded to Lamon by saying, “I’ve spent more years of my life in Arizona than Jim Lamon.”
“You can tell by his accent that he’s from another part of the country. We welcome people here, that’s fine,” Masters said. “But I’m from Arizona, and this is a bull run.”
Masters repeatedly mentioned his endorsement of Trump as he sought to defend himself against Lamon’s attacks.
“We need to implement these America policies first,” Masters said. “President Trump trusts me to do that. He met with Jim Lamon, he thought he was a fool. I am the first candidate from the United States, that is why they support me.”
While Masters and Lamon spent much of the debate attacking each other, one of the leading candidates in the polls did not appear on stage. State Attorney General Mark Brnovich was invited and met the criteria to qualify, but chose not to attend.
A spokesperson for Brnovich told CBS News that the attorney general was traveling to Washington, DC on official business to “fight for the people of Arizona and against the open border policies of the Biden Administration.”
This latest Republican Senate primary debate and Trump’s impending visit to the state on Saturday have thrust Arizona into the political spotlight. It is one of the last major states in the 2022 battlefield to hold a primary this cycle.
Trump will meet Saturday for the Masters in Prescott Valley, one of the most conservative parts of the state. The former president has inserted himself into several high-profile primary battles this year, including in Nevada, Pennsylvania and Georgia.
The winner of the August 2 primary will face Senator Kelly in November. Kelly announced Wednesday that he raised $13.6 million in the second quarter of 2022 and currently has $25 million in cash on hand to defend his seat.