Live coverage: McSally clashes with Sinema in Arizona Senate debate

Live coverage: McSally clashes with Sinema in Arizona Senate debate
© Getty images

U.S. Senate hopefuls Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyBusiness groups, sensing victory, keep up pressure over tax hikes Kelly raises million in third quarter Ruben Gallego is left's favorite to take on Sinema MORE (R) and Kyrsten Sinema (D) face off Monday night in a highly anticipated debate in Arizona.

Both candidates are serving in the House of Representatives but are now vying for the seat being vacated by Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeRubio vows to slow-walk Biden's China, Spain ambassador nominees Senate confirms Thomas Nides as US ambassador to Israel Flake, Cindy McCain among latest Biden ambassadors confirmed after delay MORE (R), who's retiring from Congress in early January.


The race is deemed a toss-up by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, with polls showing the two women running neck-and-neck in a state that President TrumpDonald TrumpSenate rejects attempt to block Biden's Saudi arms sale Crenshaw slams House Freedom Caucus members as 'grifters,' 'performance artists' Senate confirms Biden's nominee to lead Customs and Border Protection MORE won by less than 4 points in 2016. A Democrat has not won a Senate seat in Arizona since 1988.

The debate begins at 9 p.m. Follow along with our live coverage here.

Debate ends on personal notes

10:28 p.m.

Sinema began her closing statements talking about the tough times her family had growing up in Tucson, and how at one point she was homeless.

She then highlighted her willingness to reach across the aisle, citing her work with the late Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainDole to lie in state in Capitol Rotunda Bob Dole: A great leader of the 'Greatest Generation' The bully who pulls the levers of Trump's mind never learns MORE (Ariz.) to secure funding for public schools. Sinema said she's ranked as the third-most independent member of Congress for a reason.

McSally also recounted her youth, talking about how she lost her dad and how she was a victim of sexual abuse.

She ended by defending the direction that the country is headed, saying that America and Arizona are “back” because of Republican leadership.

McSally brings up ‘pink tutu’

10:17 p.m.

McSally brought up Sinema’s past ties to anti-war activism in the final minutes of the debate, during an exchange about climate change.

“While we were in harm's way, she was protesting our troops in a pink tutu,” McSally, an Air Force veteran, said, calling Sinema’s opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan “disqualifying” factors for her Senate candidacy.

“I want to ask right now whether you’re going to apologize to the veterans and me for saying it’s OK to commit treason,” McSally said, referencing a CNN report that Sinema in 2003 said she would be “fine” with Americans joining the Taliban.

Sinema accused McSally of “engaging in ridiculous attacks and smearing my campaign.”

“The truth is I have always fought for Arizona,” Sinema said. “Arizonans know me and they know my record.”

Sinema stresses bipartisanship in need to address climate change

10:12 p.m.

Sinema said she believes that climate change is real and a threat to Arizona’s water supply, noting that she would look to work with Republican Sen. Jon Kyl (Ariz.) to make sure the state’s water supply is preserved.

“Here in Arizona, water is a grave concern in our state,” Sinema said.

When also asked to address climate change, McSally described it as an important issue but pivoted to veterans issues, which she said had not been address during the debate.

“We do have to address the issues of climate, and water is so important for Arizona, it’s our lifeline,” McSally said.

“But we have to talk about the military. We have to talk about our veterans,” she continued. “We haven’t had any opportunity.”

McSally praises GOP tax cuts

9:59 p.m.

When discussing the economy, McSally highlighted her "yes" vote on the 2017 GOP tax-cut bill that Trump signed into law. She argued that federal revenue is now up and unemployment is down, particularly for Hispanics.

McSally said the real issue is that “we have a spending problem.” 

Sinema, like all congressional Democrats, voted against the tax bill, saying she was concerned it would increase the deficit by almost $2 trillion and jeopardize Medicare and Social Security.

McSally said citizens have Republicans to thank for the success of the U.S. economy.

Sinema says border security should include path to citizenship for 'Dreamers'

9:49 p.m.

Sinema suggested she would vote for legislation that includes funding for Trump’s border wall, but said a “total solution” would need to include other measures to boost border security and a path to citizenship for so-called Dreamers, young immigrants who came to the country illegally when they were children.

“I’m fine with a physical barrier being part of a total solution, but I believe that simply funding for a border wall is not sufficient,” Sinema said. She repeated her oft-used phrase that Trump’s wall is an “18th century solution to a 21st century problem.”

Sinema said legislation to improve border security should combine smart technology solutions with a physical barrier proposed by Trump, in addition to providing a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers.

Disagreement over protections for pre-existing conditions

9:40 p.m.

McSally and Sinema disagreed on what would result from their proposed fixes to ObamaCare. McSally touted her work to fashion a bill with some bipartisan support that would stabilize the health-care market, saying it could help break through the gridlock.

Sinema countered that the legislation McSally worked on would roll back protections for those with pre-existing conditions, increase health-care costs for the elderly and raise premiums.

McSally disputed that characterization, saying her bill would protect those with pre-existing conditions. She also argued that insurance premiums have gone up as much as 300 percent since the establishment of ObamaCare.

McSally touts ‘pro-life’ record

9:35 p.m.

When asked about Roe v. Wade, the landmark Supreme Court case establishing a legal right to abortion, McSally cited her “pro-life” record but would not say definitively whether she would support overturning the ruling.

“I have a very strong pro-life record,” McSally said. “I would appointing justices who are looking independently at the Constitution and the laws that we make.”

Sinema responded by saying, “I believe important decisions such as a that should be made by a woman, her family and her doctor” and not by the government. She indicated she would not support the court overturning Roe v. Wade. 

McSally and Sinema clash over Kavanaugh

9:31 p.m. 

Sinema said she was “incredibly disappointed” with the Senate confirmation process for Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughTrump considered withdrawing Kavanaugh nomination over beer comments, being 'too apologetic': Meadows book GOP Sen. Braun says abortion laws should be left up to states Neil Gorsuch's terrifying paragraph MORE, calling it “a circus.”

She criticized how several lawmakers immediately made their positions known immediately after Trump announced Kavanaugh as his nominee.

Sinema said she would have voted "no" on Kavanaugh because of the partisan nature of some of his comments.

McSally said that she would have voted "yes." She said that as a sexual abuse survivor, she thought that “what Democrats did to Dr. Ford and Kavanaugh’s family was horrible,” referring to Christine Blasey Ford. 

Sinema hits Trump over tariffs

9:22 p.m.

Sinema took aim at McSally for supporting Trump in his trade policies, suggesting her opponent would side with GOP leaders instead of calling them out for actions damaging to Arizonans.

“I believe Arizonans deserve a senator who just calls the balls and the strikes and who just doesn’t always agree with the party leader,” Sinema said, adding that Trump’s decision to impose “very harsh tariffs” on various goods have hurt the cotton and dairy industries in the state.

Sinema also argued that Trump’s aluminum tariffs on the European Union, Canada and Mexico would cause breweries to pay more for aluminum cans and drive up the cost of beer as a result.

“That’s something I think we should all be able to agree on — that beer shouldn’t cost more,” Sinema said.

McSally expressed support for the president, describing Trump as a “disrupter” who isn't afraid to shake up Washington and take bold steps on trade with the goal of helping Americans.