Sharpe to the Point: Senate-ing for $$$

Jim SharpeMarch 30, 2020
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Recently, a pair of canvassers asked me to sign a petition for a ballot proposition they said would “eliminate dark money in Arizona politics.” They’ll probably be back at my door next year with a petition to “eliminate disgustingly large sums of money in Arizona politics,” because not only will the Martha McSally/Mark Kelly U.S. Senate race be the most expensive race in Arizona’s history, it’s turning into America’s premier Senate battle royale.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, as of March 1, Kelly has raised more money than any other Senate candidate in the U.S. – with more than $20.1 million donated to the former astronaut’s campaign. Meanwhile, McSally is No. 3, with a fundraising total of more than $12.3 million.

Translation: It’s time to feel special, Arizona voter! Evidently, a lot of people around the country care about (how) you (will vote).

And we’ve only scratched the surface. Mike Noble, chief researcher and managing partner of Arizona polling company OH Predictive Insights, tells me, “The McSally-Kelly race could attract upward of $200 million when you include outside spending.” How insane is that?

In 2018, McSally and her ultimately victorious opponent, Kyrsten Sinema, raised $38 million collectively to compete for a complete six-year term; 2020’s giant total will be spent for a mere two-year term (that finishes off the six years the late John McCain started).

Yes, $200 million for two years. The only reason you can’t hear the cash registers ringing is because nobody uses cash registers that ring anymore. But that doesn’t mean it’s not going to get loud – 200 mil buys a lot of noise. Recently on KTAR, Governor Doug Ducey talked to me about his efforts to keep McSally in the Senate – a candidate he put there in the first place with a gubernatorial appointment.

Ducey told me that, despite McSally’s lackluster polling numbers, he’s not worried: “It’s very early. Very few people are thinking about November [and] the U.S. Senate race right now.”

Au contraire, Mr. Governor. A lot of people are thinking about how a Kelly win could create a Democrat-majority Senate, and they’re putting their money where their minds are. Unlike the monsoons of late, they’re gonna make it rain in Arizona.

When you break down that projected $200 million and apply some math (my favorite!), you really get a sense of how important each one of us little ol’ Arizona voters is. There will likely be 4 million registered voters in Arizona by election day. When you overlay our historical presidential election-year voting patterns – about a 75 percent turnout – that huge Senate sum works out to $66 per voter.

My vote has never been for sale before, but could somebody just mail us all a $66 check and tell us who to vote for? I keep thinking about all the hours and days of my life it will save by not having to watch and listen to the nauseating, ad-nauseum ads that $200 million will buy.

Jim Sharpe is the host of Arizona’s Morning News on KTAR-FM 92.3 (weekdays 5-9 a.m.). Visit to find more information about his on-air work.