Thiel ally Blake Masters launches Arizona Senate bid

Blake Masters, a top ally of GOP mega-donor Peter Thiel, launched a bid in Arizona’s Senate race Monday as the GOP field vying to take on Sen. Mark KellyMark KellyOvernight Defense & National Security — Congress begins Afghanistan grilling Businesses want Congress to support safe, quality jobs — so do nearly all Americans GOP sees Biden crises as boon for midterm recruitment MORE (D) grows.

Masters, the chief operating officer at Thiel Capital and president of the Thiel Foundation, has recently become more involved in Republican politics, including in 2020, when he headed a PAC that raised more than $3 million to elect Republicans to the Arizona State Legislature. In a campaign launch video, Masters touched on a number of GOP culture war issues like immigration and critical race theory while casting himself as an ally of working families. 

“Our leaders have shipped millions of jobs to China, and the internet, which was supposed to give us an awesome future, is instead being used to shut us up,” he said. “We are up against a media that lies to us, schools that teach our kids to hate our country, and corporations that have gotten so big, they think they’re bigger than America.”

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“It’s time to put this country first. It’s time to enforce the law, and we need to finish the wall,” he added over video of him walking in front of the U.S.-Mexico border. “We gotta build an economy where you can afford to raise a family on one single income.”

While the video did not mention either President BidenJoe BidenHouse Democrat threatens to vote against party's spending bill if HBCUs don't get more federal aid Overnight Defense & National Security — The Pentagon's deadly mistake Haitians stuck in Texas extend Biden's immigration woes MORE or Kelly by name, Masters targeted them in a press release announcing his campaign.

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“This country used to work,” Masters said. “Now it doesn’t. The Biden Administration is a train wreck, and Mark Kelly is nowhere to be found. We have to take this seat — and the United States Senate — back.”

Masters’s entry into the race is the latest move by Thiel to assert his influence over key Senate races across the country. The billionaire tech entrepreneur has doled out $10 million each to two super PACs backing Masters and J.D. Vance, the “Hillbilly Elegy” author who is running in the Ohio Senate GOP primary.

That financial support is expected to give Masters the chance to compete heavily in the crowded GOP primary for the chance to challenge Kelly. Masters is running against state Attorney General Mark Brnovich, former adjutant general of the Arizona National Guard Michel McGuire, businessman Jim Lamon and software engineer Robert Paveza in the nominating contest.

Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), the chair of the hard-line House Freedom Caucus, is also mulling a Senate bid.

Republicans see Arizona as a top pick-up opportunity in the battle for the Senate. Long a conservative bastion, Arizona has delivered key victories for Democrats in recent years. Sen. Kyrsten SinemaKyrsten SinemaOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Emissions heading toward pre-pandemic levels Biden discusses agenda with Schumer, Pelosi ahead of pivotal week Biden goes after top 1 percent in defending tax hikes MORE (D) won a full term there in 2018, and Kelly won a special election to finish out the term of the late Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCain20 years after 9/11, US foreign policy still struggles for balance What the chaos in Afghanistan can remind us about the importance of protecting democracy at home 'The View' plans series of conservative women as temporary McCain replacements MORE (R) last year. President Biden also won the state in November, marking the first time a Democratic presidential nominee took Arizona since 1996. 

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Kelly’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill regarding Masters’s candidacy but is expected to roll out an imposing reelection effort. Kelly raised nearly $6 million in the second quarter of the year, a hefty haul that eclipsed the $4.4 million he took in during the first three months of 2021.

The Arizona Democratic Party slammed Masters's candidacy as an effort to buy Kelly's seat, citing his support from Thiel.

“Barreling into the race with $10 million in promised outside spending from a California billionaire, Blake Masters can’t even pretend he’s running to actually represent Arizonans — he’s trying to buy his way to the Senate. Masters’ candidacy only serves to make a chaotic, expensive, and absurd GOP primary that’s centered around President TrumpDonald TrumpOvernight Defense & National Security — The Pentagon's deadly mistake Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Interior returns BLM HQ to Washington France pulls ambassadors to US, Australia in protest of submarine deal MORE, not Arizonans, even more volatile,” party spokesperson Sarah Guggenheimer said in a statement.