Arizona Senate debate: Democrat Mark Kelly, Republican Blake Masters face off Thursday: what to expect

In Arizona, Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly and Republican challenger Blake Masters will face off in the race's sole debate between the two candidates.

The debate is a chance for both candidates to present themselves to voters and offer contrasting visions. Kelly leads Masters by only three percentage points – well within the margin of error – according to a poll from CBS News and YouGov.

The two are expected to clash over issues that have dominated other competitive races this election season such as inflation and abortion – two topics particularly sensitive to the Grand Canyon State.

Here's a preview of what's to come Thursday night.

A new abortion ban in Arizona

An abortion ban recently went into effect in Arizona – expect the candidates to talk a lot about it.

Following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in June to overturn Roe v. Wade, an Arizona judge last month revived a law from 1901 that outlaws abortion almost completely, with no exceptions for rape or incest.

Related: After Roe v. Wade, abortion bans from the 1800s became legal matters in these states

Republican Gov. Doug Ducey also signed a bill earlier this year that bans abortion in the state after 15 weeks, but the 1901 law is currently the prevailing law in the state.

Kelly has heavily campaigned on abortion as his Democratic colleagues have done in other races nationally. On Tuesday night, he told MSNBC he supports codifying Roe v. Wade to guarantee a right to an abortion across the nation.

U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., talks to reporters before attending a Senate Democratic luncheon, at the U.S. Capitol on September 28, 2022 in Washington, DC.
U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., talks to reporters before attending a Senate Democratic luncheon, at the U.S. Capitol on September 28, 2022 in Washington, DC.

Masters has criticized the 1901 law, calling it out of step with Arizona voters. But he has supported the ban signed by Ducey and another 15-week nationwide abortion ban proposed by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.

Inflation's an issue everywhere, but especially in Arizona

Inflation and the economy will be a particularly important issue in Thursday night’s debate. In Phoenix, inflation was at its highest compared to any other large city in the nation at 13% over the past 12 months, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Masters has hammered Kelly and President Joe Biden over inflation, telling the Arizona Republic, “the Democrats have failed spectacularly, and Arizonans are hurting the most.”

Kelly has defended himself by pointing to legislation passed such as the CHIPS Act (which boosted domestic manufacturing of computer chips) and the Inflation Reduction Act (which allocated money to combat climate change and lowered prescription drug costs), but also telling the Arizona Republic “there is still more work to do.”

A lot of border talk

Expect to hear about the record number of migrant crossings at the southern border. Arizona – along with Texas and Florida – have started state-funded programs to transport migrants to Democrat-led major metro areas.

Political opponents have blasted the programs, calling them inhumane and political stunts.

Political consequences: Could Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' migrant tactic backfire politically with key voting bloc?

Republican U.S. senatorial candidate Blake Masters speaks during his election night watch party on August 02, 2022 in Chandler, Arizona.
Republican U.S. senatorial candidate Blake Masters speaks during his election night watch party on August 02, 2022 in Chandler, Arizona.

Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis recently made national headlines for flying 48 migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, an affluent island in deep-blue Massachusetts. Masters applauded the controversial move, telling KTAR News it was a “necessary stunt” to bring attention to the border.

Kelly has distanced himself from Biden’s immigration policy and has criticized his administration for not providing more resources to the border.

Where to watch the debate

The debate is scheduled for 9 p.m. ET/8 p.m CT/6 p.m. PT.

USA Today will livestream the debate in addition to it's live blog Thursday night. C-SPAN will also be airing the debate along with the debate's organizers, Arizona PBS.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Mark Kelly, Blake Masters face off in Senate debate in Arizona