Sen. Mark Kelly ended Thursday with a lead over Republican Blake Masters that grew to nearly 115,000 votes, which led at least one national analyst to predict the race is effectively over.
Election officials still have about 500,000 votes to count across the state, with most of them in Maricopa and Pima counties, where Kelly, D-Ariz., has consistently led.
Based on the estimated number of ballots remaining and Kelly’s current lead, Masters needs to win more than 60% of the remaining votes to win the race.
The uphill numerical climb for Masters led Dave Wasserman, House editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, to invoke his signature phrase in a tweet late Thursday signaling that, to him at least, what remains to be counted is academic.
“I’ve seen enough: Sen. Mark Kelly (D) wins reelection in #AZSEN, defeating Blake Masters (R),” Wasserman wrote.
If correct, it would give Democrats a 49th seat in the U.S. Senate, with a possibility of preserving their narrow majority in the chamber by winning at least one of the races in Georgia and Nevada.
It would also extend Arizona’s all-Democratic representation in the Senate to at least four years, the longest such run for the party since a 26-year streak that began in 1926 and continued until Republican Sen. Barry Goldwater won his first term in 1952.
Election coverage: Live news updates | Arizona election results
Kelly gained a net 20,000 votes over Masters on Thursday, according to unofficial tallies. The totals reflected about 139,000 ballots counted across the state, though the bulk of them — about 78,000 — came from Maricopa County.
Multiple batches of ballots also were counted from Democratic-leaning Pima County.
Overall, Kelly now leads Masters by 5.6 percentage points. His lead is expected to shrink as officials turn to ballots that were dropped off on Election Day, a period when Republican turnout soared.
Masters told his supporters the race was about to turn his way.
“We are seeing the last few big, pro-Dem drops. Soon they’ll run out, & then there are hundreds of thousands of pro-R ballots to count. We will overtake them and win,” he wrote in a tweet before Maricopa County’s numbers were added to the totals.
In Georgia, Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., held a narrow lead over Republican Herschel Walker in a race headed for a Dec. 6 runoff. That contest won’t feature a Libertarian candidate who has garnered about 2% of the votes so far.
In Nevada, Republican Adam Laxalt held a shrinking lead over Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., with many of the ballots still to be counted coming from Democrat-leaning Clark County.
Reach the reporter Ronald J. Hansen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 602-444-4493. Follow him on Twitter @ronaldjhansen.
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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Sen. Mark Kelly retains large lead over Blake Masters in Arizona