Wealthy venture capitalist Blake Masters won the Republican nomination Tuesday night to face off against U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) in November, narrowly besting his rivals after an endorsement from former President Donald Trump.
Masters, 35, spent most of his career working for billionaire Peter Thiel, who bankrolled his campaign with more than $15 million. His campaign has primarily focused on topics popular among the far right, including bashing critical race theory and Big Tech.
But Masters’ record has raised eyebrows. As a libertarian-leaning college student, Masters expressed opposition to U.S. involvement in World War II and downplayed Al Qaeda as a threat to Americans. He praised some positions held by Ted Kaczynski, known as the Unabomber, who was convicted in 1998 of three murders.
More recently, Masters drew criticism after blaming gun violence on Black people and for declaring his support for a national abortion ban in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of federal abortion rights.
He also appeared to agree with the suggestion that the federal law requiring political candidates to disclose financial donations is akin to Kristallnacht, the Nazi attack on Jews in 1938.
Masters’ comments endorsing privatizing Social Security during a recent debate, meanwhile, left some Republican strategists cringing.
A GOP pickup in Arizona would severely endanger Democratic control of the Senate next year.
Kelly, a former astronaut, has served in the Senate since 2020 after defeating incumbent Republican Martha McSally in a special election. Although his campaign has raised large sums of money, Kelly is seen as vulnerable amid heightened inflation and poor approval ratings for President Joe Biden.
Those macro factors could trump whatever deficiencies GOP candidates like Masters hold, especially if the 2022 midterms turn out to be a “red wave” election.