Senator Kelly Adjusts Messaging to Attract Independents After Similar Move by Opponent Masters

Senator Kelly Adjusts Messaging to Attract Independents After Similar Move by Opponent Masters

By Corinne Murdock |

With the primary election over and the general election drawing near, Senator Mark Kelly (D-AZ) is leaning into his image as an independent candidate.

On Tuesday, Kelly republished an edited version of campaign messaging issued from last month announcing a 50-person bipartisan coalition of constituents. The senator shifted his presentation from an official with bipartisan support to an “independent voice” for Arizonans. 

Last week, Kelly aided the passage of President Joe Biden’s controversial Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) without the hesitation initially posed by Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ). The senator said that the IRA would lower prescription drug costs, implement funding to combat drought and “climate change,” and reduce the deficit. Kelly promised that the IRA wouldn’t result in increased taxes for small businesses and middle-class Arizonans.

Kelly aligned with the Democratic Party on all fronts concerning the IRA, rejecting across the board amendments that would finish the border wall, approve coal leases, increase domestic oil production, protect those making under $400,000 from additional tax audits, limit price controls for treatments on conditions like cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, require oil and gas lease sales in the outer Continental Shelf, provide discounted insulin for low and middle-income Americans, remove $45 million in climate-related expenditures, retain Title 42, strike a tax increase resulting in higher energy prices for those earning under $400,000, hire more Border Patrol agents, reduce drug prices, invest in violent crime prevention, and prohibit tax credits for electric vehicles built with slave labor. 

With Kelly’s support of the IRA expansion of the IRS by 87,000 more agents, it’s likely that most Americans making under $200,000 a year will be audited. 2021 IRS data revealed that over half of their audits focused on individuals making less than $75,000 a year. 

Kelly’s campaign tone shift follows that of his Republican opponent, Blake Masters. As AZ Free News reported earlier this week, Masters opted to describe himself as “independent” in his latest campaign video, rather than displaying his endorsement from former President Donald Trump or interviews with popular right-leaning shows.

Media coverage of Masters’ shift may have prompted the candidate to backtrack somewhat. At some point over the last week, Masters rendered the video “unlisted”: meaning, the video doesn’t appear anywhere on his profile, and remains accessible only through a direct link, like the one we’ve provided above. However, the video remains on his Twitter page.

“Other” voters total just over 1.4 million, tens of thousands more than the 1.2 million registered Democrats. Registered Republicans total well over 1.4 million. 

Throughout his tenure, Kelly has insisted that the issues he represents are neither Democrat or Republican issues. Often, he characterizes his stances as “Arizona priorities.” 

Masters predicted in July that Kelly would shift his campaign tone to attract more independents, especially with Biden’s approval ratings at historic lows. The president’s IRA passage offered a slight boost from a historic low of 36 percent to 40 percent — though his inroads with Democratic and Republican approval numbers weren’t reflected among independent voters, who dropped further in their support.

The GOP challenger has been critical of Kelly’s claim of independence throughout his campaign, even praising Sinema for being a better independent.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.