Martha McSally, Kyrsten Sinema face off Monday in high-stakes debate

Oct 15, 2018, 9:58 AM | Updated: 12:56 pm
(AP Photos)...
(AP Photos)
(AP Photos)

PHOENIX – Monday night’s highly anticipated debate between Arizona’s U.S. Senate candidates, Republican Martha McSally and Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, could be a critical moment in the contentious, high-stakes race.

“The Senate race is so close that it could turn on the outcome and performance of this debate,” Valley political analyst Stan Barnes told KTAR News 92.3 FM.

The only debate scheduled between the candidates begins at 6 p.m. and will be televised and streamed online by Arizona PBS.

The race is considered a key in the Democrats’ efforts to take control of the Senate, which Republicans hold by a 51-49 margin.

“I expect this will be among the most watched and anticipated political debates in a generation in Arizona,” said Barnes, president of Copper State Consulting group.

Experts expect the candidates to spar over border security and the economy, issues that favor McSally, and health care, a topic Sinema has been emphasizing in her campaign.

It also could get personal between the two U.S. House members.

Mike O’Neil, political analyst and host of KTAR News’ Think Tank, doesn’t expect the candidates to play nice.

“I think debate protocol would dictate at least initial civility, but I think that could dissipate rather quickly,” he said.

“If you have one candidate make a relatively mild charge against the other, the tendency is to escalate.”

Barnes agreed.

“I think there will be pointed words, some tense nature to it,” he said. “I think it will be argumentative. They’ll probably talk over one another.”

Barnes noted that voters who have received their early ballots could literally cast their votes while watching the candidates scrap.

“That really amps up the stakes and the level of excitement and importance of this particular debate,” he said.

Sinema, who didn’t face a serious challenge in the primary, has been leading the race in most polls, but the margin has tightened and some polls have shown McSally ahead.

“It’s so close no one’s really got breathing room for a mistake,” Emily Ryan of Copper State Consulting told KTAR News’ Arizona Morning News.

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Martha McSally, Kyrsten Sinema face off Monday in high-stakes debate