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Despite poll showing she trails, McSally calls Senate race ‘dead heat’

PHOENIX – Republican U.S. Sen. Martha McSally shrugged off a new poll that shows her significantly behind likely Democratic challenger Mark Kelly in Arizona’s closely watched Senate race.

“There’s going to be lots of polls that go out,” McSally told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Arizona Morning News on Thursday. “This is going to be a dead-heat race, and we’ve got to make sure that we get our message out and we get our voters out.”

Kelly, a former astronaut and political newcomer, led the incumbent 46%-39.3% in a poll released Wednesday by HighGround Public Affairs, with 12.2% percent undecided or refusing to answer and 2.5% backing somebody else. The poll was conducted Feb. 7-9 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9%.

McSally, a former Air Force pilot, touted the GOP agenda and her record in office since being appointed to the Senate by Gov. Doug Ducey following the 2018 death of U.S. Sen. John McCain.

“I hope that people give me the opportunity to continue to serve,” she said. “This message resonates across rural and urban areas.”

The poll, which came out hours before McSally appeared with President Donald Trump at a campaign rally in Phoenix, showed Kelly leading 51.8%-28.2% among independent and unaffiliated voters and 46.7%-37.3% in Maricopa County, the state’s most populous county.

Paul Bentz of HigherGround agreed with McSally’s assessment that Kelly’s lead isn’t safe.

“I suspect that this race will tighten up as we get closer to the election, and it’s still eight months away,” Bentz told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Wednesday. “But definitely Arizona is a battleground state and a lot of eyes are going to be on this election.”

A December 2019 poll by Phoenix-based research company OH Predictive Insights showed Kelly with a 47%-44% lead, with 9% undecided.

Bentz noted that about a third of the voters surveyed haven’t yet formed an opinion about Kelly.

“There’s still an opportunity for both parties to define Mr. Kelly,” he said.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Taylor Kinnerup contributed to this report.

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