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Mark Kelly keeps up torrid Senate fundraising pace with $11.3 million haul in 1st quarter

Arizona senator's fundraising dwarfs Republican primary field. But he has to overcome voter anxieties, low approval for Biden to win re-election.

PHOENIX — Editor's note: The above video aired during a previous broadcast.

U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly kept up his torrid fund-raising pace in the first three months of the year, bringing in $11.3 million and expanding his cash on hand to $23.2 million, the Kelly campaign reported Thursday.

The campaign reported receiving 1.1 million contributions during the current election cycle. During the first quarter, 97 percent of them were for $100 or less.

"Sen. Kelly has launched into 2022 delivering real results for hardworking families in Arizona, not big corporations or DC special interests," said Kelly campaign manager Emma Brown. "Our grassroots donors are responding, fueling this campaign at an unprecedented rate."

Arizona's emergence in 2018 as a swing state that could decide control of the U.S. Senate has fueled an exponential increase in campaign spending. 

To date, the Kelly campaign has raised nearly $39 million, on its way to an anticipated $100 million in fund-raising for the senator's re-election bid.

Outside groups, both Democratic and Republican, are expected to spend tens of millions of dollars more during the fall campaign.

Keeping Kelly's seat is vital to what are viewed as Democrats' slim chances of retaining control of the Senate in November's midterm elections. 

A poll released Thursday shows Kelly, who is unopposed in the Democratic primary, holding a four-point lead over a generic Republican nominee in the November general election, 45.3 percent  to 41 percent. The survey, by Phoenix-based HighGround Consulting, has a margin of error of 4.9 percentage points.

Distancing From President

Despite a fund-raising haul that dwarfs the cash raised by the Republican primary field, Kelly has to overcome voters' anxieties about the economy, fears of a new crisis at the Southwest border and low approval ratings for President Joe Biden.

In recent months, the former space shuttle astronaut has worked to put some distance between himself and the Biden White House

He's toured the state promoting the popular bipartisan infrastructure law and its impact.

Kelly's first TV campaign ad, "Paycheck to Paycheck," directly addressed Arizonans' economic concerns. 

This week, Kelly is co-sponsoring a bill that would block the Biden Administration's decision to lift Title 42, a 2-year-old health care order at the border that's been used as a blunt deportation tool.

Both Kelly and Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema have warned that law enforcement and border communities aren't prepared to handle an anticipated surge of migrants when the order is lifted on May 23.

Updates from GOP Candidates

Campaign finance reports for the first quarter of this year aren't due at the Federal Election Commission until April 15. 

Some Republican candidates have also provided glimpses of their fund-raising:

- Businessman Jim Lamon pledged to spend a million dollars a month of his own money on the campaign, and he appears to be stepping up that pace. 

According to the Washington Examiner, the first-time candidate has poured $13 million of his own money into his Senate campaign - $5 million during the first quarter of this year, on top of $8 million in 2021. Lamon has raised $1 million from donors, the Examiner said.

- Investor and political newcomer Blake Masters reported raising $1.13 million from individual donors in the first quarter, according to a campaign news release. Masters has raised more than $3.5 million since entering the race last summer. He didn't disclose his cash on hand.

According to Federal Election Commission reports, Masters has also benefited from more than $3.6 million in spending by the Saving America PAC, funded by a $10 million infusion from Masters' patron and former boss, tech billionaire Peter Thiel. 

The three other candidates in the Republican Senate primary are Attorney General Mark Brnovich, former Arizona National Guard Commander Mick McGuire and Arizona Corporation Commissioner Justin Olson. 

The trio raised a combined $3 million last year. They haven't provided previews of their first-quarter fundraising. 

None of the GOP candidates has won the "Mar a Lago primary." Former President Donald Trump hasn't endorsed a candidate yet.

Masters, however, has made more visits - a least two, one of them this week - than the other candidates. Thiel has been a major supporter of Trump.

'Undecided' Wins Senate Campaign Poll

An independent poll released Wednesday showed that the five Republican candidates were all losing by a wide margin to "Undecided." 

According to pollster Paul Bentz at Phoenix-based HighGround Consulting, 58 percent of respondents to a Republican Senate primary survey hadn't made up their minds about which candidate they preferred.

Brnovich, who's won two statewide races, polled at 10.6 percent and Lamon won support from 10.2 percent of respondents. Masters was third, at 6.4 percent. The poll has a margin of error of 6 percent.

In 2018, Kelly ousted Republican Sen. Martha McSally to fill the remaining two years of the late Sen. John McCain's term. This year Kelly is running for a full six-year term in the Senate.

Early ballots for the primary will be mailed to Arizona voters by the first week of July, just three months away. The primary election is Aug. 2.

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