A new poll conducted in the days after retired astronaut Mark Kelly (D) said he would run for a U.S. Senate seat puts him in a statistical tie with Sen. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyKelly raises million in third quarter Ruben Gallego is left's favorite to take on Sinema Texas not hiring private contractor for election audit MORE (R).
The survey, conducted Tuesday and Wednesday by the Phoenix-based firm OH Predictive Insights, found McSally leading Kelly by a 46 percent to 44 percent margin. That edge is well within the poll’s 4 percentage point margin of error.
Kelly said Tuesday he would run for the seat. Kelly, the husband of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), has never run for political office before. His campaign said he raised $1.1 million in the first day after he announced, a whopping fundraising haul that will rival some presidential candidates.
After a bruising run for Arizona’s other Senate seat in 2018, which she lost to Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D) by a little more than 2 percentage points, few Arizonans do not have an opinion of McSally. Fifty-one percent of state voters see her favorably, while 42 percent see her in an unfavorable light, the poll found.
By contrast, plenty of Arizona voters do not yet have an opinion of Kelly; 41 percent say they see him favorably, and just 21 percent see him unfavorably. Nearly 4 in 10 voters do not know enough about Kelly to have formed an opinion.
The early poll suggests Kelly would present a stronger challenge to McSally than the other Democrat contemplating the race, Rep. Ruben GallegoRuben GallegoSinema's no Manchin, no McCain and no maverick Sinema trails potential primary challengers in progressive poll Hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops still unvaccinated ahead of first vaccine deadline: report MORE (D).
The poll shows McSally leading Gallego (D) by a wider margin, 49 percent to 41 percent. Gallego, who represents a Phoenix-based district, is seen favorably by 30 percent of Arizona voters and unfavorably by 23 percent.
“Kelly starts in a stronger position than Gallego, although with McSally under the 50 percent threshold I would be surprised if Ruben didn’t throw his hat into the ring,” said Mike Noble, OH Predictive Insight’s chief of research.
Noble said Kelly’s advantage appears to come from Arizona’s emerging Democratic bastions, southern Pima County and fast-growing Maricopa County. In both regions, Kelly performs better against McSally than does Gallego.
Sinema became the first Democrat to win Maricopa County, by far the state’s largest, since Dennis DeConcini in 1988, and Sinema beat McSally in Pima, the core of McSally’s old House district.
The poll surveyed 600 likely voters on Tuesday and Wednesday.