Campaigns

Arizona’s GOP Sen. Martha McSally target of new super PAC ad

Race could be one of the most competitive in the country

A new super PAC is targeting Arizona GOP Sen. Martha McSally, right, in its first ad campaign. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

A new super PAC is targeting GOP Sen. Martha McSally in an early sign that the competitive Arizona Senate race could attract plenty of outside spending.

The group, named “Middle Class Fighting to Restore Arizona’s Unity and Decency,” or “McFraud,” is launching a five-figure TV and digital ad buy with a 30-second spot accusing McSally of changing her positions on immigration issues and highlighting an Arizona Republic editorial that labeled her as “disingenuous.”

The ad will air in the Phoenix media market on CNN and Fox News, according to information shared first with CQ Roll Call.

“Arizonans rejected flip-flopper Martha McSally’s brand of anti-worker politics in 2018 and we are confident they will again in 2020,” said Frank Hawk, vice president of the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters, one of the groups funding the super PAC.

The animated ad features a “McSally’s” restaurant, similar to McDonald’s. The narrator says the restaurant has “flip-flopping burgers” and a “souvenir Ukraine kamikaze cup,” a reference to McSally’s comments that Democrats’ effort to impeach President Donald Trump was a “kamikaze mission.”

The new group’s ad buy underscores how the Arizona Senate race is expected to be a top target for outside groups since it is one of Democrats’ best pickup opportunities in their effort to flip the Senate. Democrats need a net gain of three or four Senate seats in 2020, depending on whether a Democrat wins the White House since the vice president can cast a tie-breaking vote in the Senate.

Trump carried Arizona by 4 percentage points in 2016 and McSally narrowly lost a Senate race there in 2018. After the election, McSally was appointed to the Senate to replace the late GOP Sen. John McCain. The 2020 race is for the final two years of McCain’s term. 

The 2018 Arizona Senate race ranked fourth in outside spending in Senate races, according to OpenSecrets. Outside groups spent nearly $69 million on the race.

The 2020 race is also expected to be expensive, although just about $132,000 has been spent by outside groups so far, according to Federal Election Commission documents.

McSally has already gotten some support from a super PAC. The Senate Leadership Fund, which is aligned with Senate GOP leadership, spent about $53,000 supporting her last year, but the group spent $127 million nationally in the 2018 election cycle. 

End Citizens United, a traditional PAC that supports candidates who favor a campaign finance overhaul that includes a ban on super PACs, has spent more than $78,000 so far supporting McSally’s likely opponent, Mark Kelly. Traditional PACs are subject to contribution limits while super PACs are not.

Kelly, a Navy veteran and former astronaut who is married to former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, has outraised McSally in the last three fundraising quarters. He ended the third fundraising quarter of 2019 with more than $9.5 million in his campaign account while McSally had nearly $5.7 million on hand. 

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the Arizona Senate race a Toss-Up

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