Vice President Mike Pence arrived in Phoenix Wednesday afternoon to support Republican Sen. Martha McSally at a private fundraiser in Paradise Valley.
Pence’s visit drew celebration from Arizona Republicans and criticism from Democrats as politicians and supporters prepare for the upcoming 2020 Senate election.
“Republicans of Arizona are honored to have Pence here,” said Jeremiah Willett, president of College Republicans ASU. “McSally has a difficult race ahead of her and (Pence’s) support means a lot this early in the race.”
After former Sen. John McCain's death in 2018, Jon Kyl was appointed to fill his seat for the remainder of the term. Kyl resigned in December 2018, prompting Gov. Doug Ducey to appoint McSally, who had just lost to current Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema in a close election.
The election to fill McCain's seat will be held in 2020, and the winner will hold the seat for the two remaining years of his term.
While McSally did not endorse President Donald Trump during the 2016 election, she has consistently voted in favor of his policies since he took office, voting in support of the border wall and repealing Obamacare.
McSally’s fundraiser is one of many for the upcoming Senate election, which has already brought in millions and is expected to be one of the more competitive races. The fundraiser was private, held in a "posh neighborhood in Paradise Valley."
However, Pence’s support for McSally raises questions across the aisle with Democrats in Arizona.
The Arizona Democratic Party held a conference call with Rep. Ruben Gallego, (D-AZ), on Wednesday about Pence’s visit.
Gallego originally considered running for Senate, but decided to back Mark Kelly instead. Gallego believes Arizona Democrats should prioritize beating McSally in the upcoming race, due to her voting history and support from GOP politicians.
“This is the most anti-college administration in modern history," Gallego said. “(McSally) has done nothing to push student loan forgiveness. She only continues to support the Trump agenda."
Young Democrats at ASU shared similar sentiments as the congressman.
“It’s emblematic that McSally is part of the Trump agenda,” said Mariana Peña, president of Young Democrats at ASU.
“How she’s voted on healthcare and education shows she’s not really in line with Arizona values,” said Peña. “With Mark Kelly gaining support, it will be important for him to defeat McSally.”
Mark Kelly, a former astronaut and husband of former Rep. Gabby Giffords, announced his bid for Arizona Senate in February.
Since then he has gained significant traction, raising over $4 million in contributions during an off-cycle year.