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Fact Check: Fact-checking Mark Kelly and Blake Masters in Arizona Senate race

Count Arizona as another state where Republicans could pick up a Senate seat and flip the chamber. Polls show a statistical tie in the race between Democratic incumbent Mark Kelly and Republican tech investor and political newcomer Blake Masters.

Kelly, an astronaut, won in 2020 by 2.4% in a special election to fill the seat of the late Republican Sen. John McCain.

In 2020, Kelly out-performed Joe Biden, who won the state by just 0.3%. Now, with Biden’s popularity hovering around 43% and high inflation souring voters, Kelly has focused more on his readiness to differ with Biden on issues such as immigration.

Masters is a former top executive from the financial powerhouse of billionaire Peter Thiel. Thiel launched Masters’ bid with a $10 million donation to the political action committee Saving Arizona.

Masters has hammered Kelly on immigration. Arizona shares a 370-mile border with Mexico and is on the front line as a wave of men, women and children cross over, mainly seeking asylum.

Republicans claim that Kelly and the Democrats are creating inflation, fueling crime, driving high migration and promoting abortion. Democrats push back, accusing Republicans of undermining the foundations of democracy, threatening Social Security and Medicare and imposing harsh abortion restrictions.

The state has also provided a stage for the debate over how Americans vote. The Republican candidate for secretary of state, Mark Finchem, is a leading voice in the movement that denies the legitimacy of the 2020 election. Should Finchem win, he will have significant power to implement election rules in a swing state. (See our PolitiFact Arizona page, a partnership with Arizona State University, for all our fact-checks in the top federal and state races.)

Below is a recap of some key fact-checks in the Senate race.

Mark Kelly: Masters “wants to pass a national ban on abortion.” 

This is Mostly True.

During the primary campaign, Masters backed a so-called federal personhood law. This generally is understood to be national ban on abortion because it argues that abortion violates a fetus’s constitutional rights. After winning the GOP nomination, Masters continued to back a national ban, but said it should only be for third-trimester abortions.

Blake Masters: Kelly “voted to legalize abortion up until the moment of birth.” 

This is Mostly False.

Abortions that take place in the final weeks of pregnancy are exceedingly rare and involve a medical crisis. Kelly voted in favor of the Women’s Health Protection Act, which would have prohibited states from criminalizing and banning abortion of a viable fetus (approximately at 22 to 24 weeks of pregnancy) when the life and health of the woman are at risk. 

The key flaw in Masters’ statement was his focus on the very last weeks of pregnancy. A century of civil liability laws require providers to intervene when a patient’s life is endangered. The law Kelly backed would not have changed that.

Senate Majority PAC (Democrats): Masters does not support abortion exceptions for rape and incest.

This is Mostly True.

Masters supports an Arizona law that, after 15 weeks of pregnancy, bans most abortions, with no exceptions for rape or incest.

Before the August primary, Masters said on his campaign website that he would “support a federal personhood law, ideally a constitutional amendment, that recognizes that unborn babies are human beings that may not be killed.” 

That language was scrubbed from the site Aug. 25, NBC News reported.

Masters softened his position after winning the nomination, saying he would back a personhood law that would ban abortion nationally during the third trimester of pregnancy, which begins with the 27th week.

Masters: “Democrats want open borders so they can bring in and amnesty tens of millions of illegal aliens — that’s their electoral strategy.” 

This is False.

The southern border has nearly 20,000 Border Patrol agents, hundreds of miles of fencing, surveillance systems, and protocols that stop thousands of migrants each day. 

The process of becoming a U.S. citizen — and therefore earning the right to register to vote — can take years. And while in one poll, 56% of Hispanic voters said they identified or leaned Democratic, Republicans made gains in 2020.

Masters: Immigrants illegally in the country are treated “better than military veterans.” 

This is False.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has $269 billion to help veterans get health care, pay their monthly bills, build their skills through education and training and buy homes. By comparison, people in the country illegally are ineligible for most federal aid programs. Veterans can receive Social Security benefits; except in rare circumstances, people here illegally who pay into Social Security can’t claim any benefits.

National Republican Senatorial Committee: Kelly voted “for benefits to illegals.”

This is False.

This claim was based on votes on the rules for sending pandemic relief checks. The flaw is that Kelly broke with his fellow Democrats and voted for a Republican amendment that aimed to ensure that “any new round of economic impact payments does not go to those in this country illegally.” 

Kelly voted against a separate GOP proposal, but no proposal he backed would make people in the country illegally eligible for those checks.

The Treasury Department issued payments to taxpayers with Social Security numbers. Some people here illegally use an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, or ITIN, when they file a tax return; people who filed taxes using an ITIN were ineligible for relief checks.

Kelly: Masters “wants to privatize” Social Security. 

This is Mostly False.

During the primaries, Masters said, “Maybe we should privatize Social Security.” After he won the primary, he said, “I do not want to privatize Social Security.” Masters didn’t speak in great detail about Social Security, and we rated his shift a Half Flip on our Flip-O-Meter, which rates an official’s consistency on an issue. 

Saving Arizona PAC (supports Masters): “Mark Kelly voted against the Keystone pipeline, which caused higher gas prices.” 

This is Mostly False.

As gas prices were rising in 2021, the Keystone pipeline was years from completion and played no role in gas price trends. Kelly voted against measures that supported the Keystone pipeline. But even if it were built, the pipeline might not have increased oil production.

Saving Arizona: Kelly “voted to allow prison inmates to receive stimulus checks five separate times.” 

This is Mostly False.

Congress passed three pandemic relief bills that included sending checks to all taxpayers, including people in prison. 

With Republican support, former President Donald Trump signed the first two. Against Republican opposition, President Biden signed the third. The first bill passed before Kelly took office. There was only one vote on an amendment that specifically addressed checks to prisoners. It would have stopped the checks, and Kelly voted against it.

RELATED: In Arizona Senate debate, Kelly and Masters spar over immigration, abortion. We fact-checked them.

RELATED: Mark Kelly’s record on the Truth-O-Meter

RELATED: Blake Masters’ record on the Truth-O-Meter

RELATED: All our fact-checks about Arizona

Source: PolitiFact.