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Arizona Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly, left, talks with Libertarian candidate Marc Victor, middle, and Republican candidate Blake Masters, right, before a televised debate in Phoenix, Oct. 6, 2022. (AP) Arizona Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly, left, talks with Libertarian candidate Marc Victor, middle, and Republican candidate Blake Masters, right, before a televised debate in Phoenix, Oct. 6, 2022. (AP)

Arizona Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly, left, talks with Libertarian candidate Marc Victor, middle, and Republican candidate Blake Masters, right, before a televised debate in Phoenix, Oct. 6, 2022. (AP)

Jon Greenberg
By Jon Greenberg October 7, 2022
Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher October 7, 2022

Arizona offers Republicans a chance to pick up a Senate seat and win control of the chamber. Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Kelly leads Republican Blake Masters in the polls, but Masters is within striking range.

In an Oct. 6 debate, the two candidates, plus Libertarian Marc Victor, highlighted their differences on abortion and immigration. This is well-traveled ground for both Kelly and Masters.

The one surprise of the evening came when Masters dialed back his past claims of fraud in the 2020 election. In June, he told voters, "Whatever their cheating capacity is, I’m pretty sure they pulled out all the stops." Masters secured the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, and went on to win his primary.

During the debate, when asked whetherJoe Biden was the legitimately elected president, Masters first blamed Biden’s win on suppression of news coverage of Hunter Biden, the president’s son. Debate moderator Ted Simmons of PBS Arizona, pressed further.

"But not vote-counting, not election results?" Simmons asked.

"Yeah, I haven’t seen evidence of that," Masters said.

Which reflects the state of things. Multiple audits and recounts have uncovered nothing sizable enough to have altered the election’s outcome.

We fact-checked a handful of the top claims from Kelly and Masters..

"Mark Kelly said no to 18,000 more border patrol agents. But yes to 87,000 new IRS agents." — Blake Masters

This is flawed and misleading.

Kelly voted for the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act, a tax and spending bill that included about $80 billion over 10 years for the IRS. The IRS has not said how it will spend that money, except that it will focus any new enforcement on high net-worth individuals and large corporations.

Republicans draw the 87,000 figure from a May 2021 Treasury Department assessment of how it would use $80 billion to improve IRS operations. But even in the 2021 plan, not all of the estimated 86,852 full-time positions would be auditors, or work in enforcement. The report said the money would go toward many things, including "hiring new specialized enforcement staff, modernizing antiquated information technology, and investing in meaningful taxpayer service."

And the plan assumed that the hiring would replace about 50,000 IRS workers who are expected to retire in the next five to six years. IRS staff would grow, but by tens of thousands less than 87,000, and the increase would come over the span of a decade.

The move to hire 18,000 border patrol agents came in a floor proposal from Senate Republicans during passage of the Inflation Reduction Act. Republicans knew they couldn’t stop the overall bill, but they could force votes on motions that would put Democrats in a tough spot. The GOP measure failed on a straight party-line vote, with all Republicans voting in favor and all Democrats, including Kelly, voting opposed.

"I worked in Washington to bring more border patrol agents to the state of Arizona — a billion dollars for staffing and security and monitoring systems." — Mark Kelly

This is technically correct, but overemphasizes the staffing increase.

In March 2022, Congress passed an omnibus spending bill to fund every government agency through the end of the fiscal year. It contained $994 million for Customs and Border Protection for processing facilities, migrant medical care, transportation, personnel overtime, and other border management costs. 

There were an additional $100 million for Border Patrol hiring and contractors and retention and relocation incentives.

Although all of the money went to the Border Patrol, only about 10% went toward increasing the number of agents.

Mark Kelly "sponsored a bill that would have mandated legal abortion nationwide up until the moment of birth … for any reason." — Blake Masters

This is Mostly False. The key flaw is Masters’ focus on late term abortions "for any reason." 

Abortions that take place in the final weeks of pregnancy are exceedingly rare and involve a medical crisis. The bill Kelly co-sponsored said that abortions after the point of fetal viability — sometime around weeks 23 or 24 of pregnancy — would be legal "when, in the good-faith medical judgment of the treating health care provider, continuation of the pregnancy would pose a risk to the pregnant patient’s life or health."

That is not the right to an abortion at the sole request of the woman, nor does it provide the right to an abortion for any reason. The health care provider must agree that the abortion is necessary because of the risks to the mother.

Abortion opponents argue that the life-or-health exception is overly broad; regardless, Kelly’s bill gave no reason other than life or health as justification for an abortion at that stage of pregnancy.

Blake Masters "wants a national abortion ban that's so strict, that even in the case when a woman is raped, she will not have the option to make this decision." — Mark Kelly

This is generally accurate, but Masters’ favored policies have shifted recently.

During the Republican primary, Masters said several times that there should be a federal personhood law. A personhood law would give the fetus the rights of any individual, and an abortion would violate those rights. Masters allowed that people would disagree on when during pregnancy those rights would take hold, but he said whatever the timing, this would be the law in every state. 

It would be, in effect, a national abortion ban.

Until August 2022, Masters’ campaign website included his support for a personhood law. At some point that month, he deleted that language

During the debate, Masters said he supports a federal bill from Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., that bans abortion after 15 weeks but includes exceptions for rape and incest.

But Masters also said that Arizona’s law that bans abortion after 15 weeks "makes sense." That law has no exception for rape

Blake Masters "wants to send your Social Security savings to Wall Street." — Mark Kelly

This is no longer accurate.

At a June debate among the Republican Senate candidates, Masters put privatization on the table, offering a phased-in approach to hold retirees harmless.

"We can’t pull the rug out from seniors who are currently receiving Social Security," Masters said. "Maybe we should privatize Social Security, right? Private retirement accounts, get the government out of it, past a certain point, because the government, it is just too big."

For decades, Republicans have talked of keeping things as they are for people in or near retirement, but changing the rules for those who are younger.

After he won the primary Aug. 3, Masters said he no longer had that view. He told reporters, "I do not want to privatize Social Security."

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