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Mark Kelly nearly doubles Sen. Martha McSally in 1st-quarter fundraising

Sen. Martha McSally, left, and challenger Mark Kelly. (Getty Images Photos)

PHOENIX – The coronavirus outbreak has thrown a wrench into 2020 political campaigning, but it hasn’t stopped money from pouring into Arizona’s U.S. Senate race in record amounts.

Incumbent Republican Sen. Martha McSally announced her best fundraising quarter ever Tuesday, but likely Democratic challenger Mark Kelly nearly doubled her haul for January-March.

Kelly’s campaign said it was reporting a whopping $11 million total to the Federal Elections Commission for the first quarter of 2020.

McSally’s campaign said it took in $6.2 million during the same period, more than $2 million better than her previous best quarter of the cycle.

The total raised by both candidates is now around $49 million. That already tops the state record $48.5 million from Arizona’s 2018 U.S. Senate race, when Democrat Kyrsten Sinema defeated McSally for the seat vacated by Republican Jeff Flake, who didn’t run for reelection.

Valley political analyst Stan Barnes said all eyes nationally are on this race.

“This is going to be ground zero for whether or not Democrats take over the U.S. Senate,” Barnes told KTAR News 92.3 FM.

“And Mark Kelly is proving that he’s up to the challenge of being their nominee.”

Barnes said McSally’s total would be considered outstanding in “any normal cycle,” and she shouldn’t be counted out based on fundraising.

“She will have plenty of resources of which to run an effective campaign,” he said.

Kelly was able to significantly outraise the incumbent despite smaller average donations. The average first-quarter donation was $54.34 to McSally and $43 to the challenger, according to their campaigns.

In polling conducted by OH Predictive Insights in early March, before the coronavirus pushed political campaigns to the back burner, Kelly held a 49%-42% lead over McSally among likely Arizona voters.

The sitting senator dialed back her campaign and fundraising efforts in recent weeks to focus on responding to the coronavirus outbreak.

On April 1, McSally suspended fundraising for 15 days and instead raised money for the Salvation Army in Arizona. That pause isn’t reflected in the first-quarter fundraising report.

“She also donated her April paycheck to those directly affected by the devastating COVID-19,” McSally campaign manager Dylan Lefler said Tuesday in a press release.

“Sen. McSally always puts Arizonans and their needs first, and voters continue to show growing support because they want someone in the U.S. Senate who leads by example.”

Kelly’s campaign said it now has a war chest overflowing with $19.7 million, nearly double his opponent’s cash-on-hand total of $10.2 million.

The former astronaut headed into 2020 as the top fundraiser among all the country’s Senate candidates, having taken in more than $20 million through the end of 2019.

McSally was No. 6 nationally through Dec. 31 with $12.6 million raised in the race to defend the seat she was appointed to following the 2018 death of Sen. John McCain.

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Jeremy Foster contributed to this report.

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