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Live blog: Martha McSally, Mark Kelly square off in sole Senate debate

PHOENIX — Arizona Republican Sen. Martha McSally and Democratic challenger Mark Kelly squared off in a 90-minute debate tonight.

As of now, it is the only debate scheduled between the two.

The debate was live streamed by Arizona PBS on television, Facebook and YouTube at 7 p.m.

Arizona PBS partnered with the Arizona Republic, KJZZ, Arizona Public Media and the Citizens Clean Elections Commission to host the debate.

The debate was expected to highlight key issues such as the economy, health care and the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

McSally has trailed in every poll since the start of September, according to tracking by aggregate website FiveThirtyEight.

Margins have fluctuated between 1 and 17 points, the site showed.


Below are live updates from Tuesday’s debate.

8:27 p.m.

Following closing arguments, McSally challenges Kelly to three additional debates around Arizona, but he said he’s looking forward to the debate on Univision next week.


8:20 p.m.

McSally says she’s a supporter of the Second Amendment, but she argues people like Kelly and those he supporters are coming after those rights.

“Law abiding citizens deserve to keep their ability to defend their family and defend their own lives,” McSally said.

Kelly also said he also supports the Second Amendment, but he argued that stronger gun laws are not going to infringe on those rights, like helping to prevent shootings in schools.

“We can respect our rights and traditions on gun ownership under the Second Amendment, and we can have strong communities,” Kelly said.


7:55 p.m.

On border security, McSally said the border wall system makes sense and allows agents to use resources to protect the border.

“Border security is national security, and we should not have to choose between supporting our military and securing our border — so I’m for both,” McSally said.

Kelly said that it’s clear the state needs strong border security. He said the wall makes sense in some parts, but technology can play a bigger role than it currently does.

“There are smart ways to address this,” Kelly said.


7:43 p.m.

When asked if she was proud of her support for President Donald Trump, McSally said she’s proud of what she’s done to help Arizonans by putting legislation on his desk, and she’s proud to be fighting for Arizonans.

Kelly said it’s “not acceptable” to support Trump and he intends to focus on issues that affect Arizonans. He pointed to Trump’s tax cut, which didn’t necessarily benefit middle-class tax payers and working class residents.

“That’s not leadership, that’s not what we need,” Kelly said.


7:38 p.m.

Kelly indicated that health care is an important topic for him because of his with Gabby Giffords. Kelly said not everyone has access to the kind of health care that his wife had.

“These are the issues Arizonans care about,” Kelly said.

McSally said she’s fighting to get Arizonans more health care options.

“We should never allow insurance companies to deny patients with preexisting conditions,” McSally said


7:24 p.m.

McSally said that China is America’s biggest geopolitical threat.

“They’re stealing our technology, they’re building islands where they didn’t exist in the south China sea and militarizing them, but ultimately Americans are now awaken because they’ve unleashed this virus on the world and then we realized that we’re relying on our PPE from China,” McSally said.

Kelly agreed that China has been an adversary of the United States and said the country needs to use economic and diplomatic pressure.

“Anywhere on the planet where we leave a vacuum, China is going to step into it. We need to hold them accountable,” Kelly said.


7:15 p.m.

Kelly said he does not support the Senate moving on with confirming Supreme Court justice nominee Amy Coney Barrett before the election.

“This should be given some thoughtful consideration,” Kelly said.

McSally said that people like Kelly want to delay the confirmation so they can get “liberal activist judges on the bench.” She repeatedly indicated that the constitution is the guide when it comes to confirming new Supreme Court justices.


7:08 p.m.

When it comes to the coronavirus pandemic, McSally said she’s fought to protect Arizonans and seek additional virus aid. She pointed to helping to pass the CARES Act and said President Donald Trump has helped the American people.

Kelly said Washington has not handled the coronavirus pandemic well. He also called for independent leadership to help the situation.


7:00 p.m.

McSally and Kelly took the stage at Arizona PBS for the only scheduled debate for the Senate race in Arizona.


6:22 p.m.

McSally supporters and Arizona GOP chairwoman Kelli Ward gathered downtown ahead of the scheduled debate.


6:00 p.m.

According to the Associated Press, McSally released five years of tax returns ahead of Tuesday’s debate and called on Kelly to do the same.

McSally made just under $288,000 last year and paid an effective tax rate of 22%.

Over the five-year period, she reported giving an average of 7.4 percent of her adjusted gross income to charity. Her effective tax rate ranged from 18.8% in 2018 to 22% in 2019.

Arizona open and hiring: If you’re looking for job openings, visit ktar.com/arizonahiring.

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