The 2010 United States Senate election in Arizona took place on November 2, 2010 along with other elections to the United States Senate in other states as well as elections to the United States House of Representatives and various state and local elections. The primaries were held on August 24, 2010. Incumbent Republican U.S. Senator John McCain won re-election to a fifth term.
Many considered popular Democratic Governor Janet Napolitano a possible Democratic challenger to McCain, and some very early polling showed her ahead or competitive with him in a prospective 2010 matchup. Napolitano was term-limited as governor in 2010, and had openly discussed the possibility of a Senate race, especially given McCain's 2008 electoral results in the Democratic-trending state.
In February 2009, Arizona Senate minority leader Jorge Luis Garcia was saying: "There hasn't been any discussion about any [candidates]. The Democratic Party would be willing to lend support to a candidate against Senator McCain. It would be very expensive—very, very, very expensive." In April 2009, only one person had announced a candidacy, Rudy Garcia, the former mayor of Bell Gardens, California. In October 2009, national Democratic leaders were saying that they were not bothering to recruit anyone to face McCain, but that same month, Tucson Councilman Rodney Glassman filed an exploratory committee for this Senate seat at the urging of Arizona Attorney General and Arizona gubernatorial candidate Terry Goddard.
Incumbent Republican senator John McCain lost his bid for President of the United States in the 2008 election on November 4, 2008. By November 18, he had indicated his intention to form a political action committee to run for Senate re-election in 2010. McCain confirmed his decision at a press conference in Phoenix, Arizona on November 25, 2008, saying, "I intend to run again and will make an announcement at an appropriate time." In his appearance, McCain made a point of shifting from discussion of national issues to local ones, and followed up with renewed attention to the state during the next few months. In February 2009, McCain began active fundraising efforts for his re-election campaign.
As 2009 progressed, McCain got two announced primary challengers, U.S. Navy veteran and businessman Jim Deakin, and Chris Simcox, the co-founder of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps. Simcox's April 2009 announcement of his candidacy garnered a fair amount of press attention; he stated that "John McCain has failed miserably in his duty to secure this nation's borders and protect the people of Arizona from the escalating violence and lawlessness. ... Coupled with his votes for reckless bailout spending and big government solutions to our nation's problems, John McCain is out of touch with everyday Arizonans. Enough is enough."
In October 2009, Hayworth said that he was considering a primary challenge: "There's a great deal of respect for John as a historical figure. But he's long been at odds with the conservative base of the Republican Party and more recently with Arizonans." Hayworth quoted a poll which said that 61 percent of Arizona Republicans thought McCain had lost touch with his party. McCain had raised $4.7 million for his Senate re-election, and had access to more than $20 million leftover from his 2008 presidential effort. A November 2009 Rasmussen Reports poll surprisingly showed that Hayworth was nearly even with McCain among likely Republican Party primary voters in the state. As January 2010 progressed, McCain began running negative ads against Hayworth. On January 22, 2010, Hayworth resigned from his talk radio position at KFYI, a necessary step to becoming a candidate. On January 23, Hayworth announced at a meeting of the Arizona Republican Party State Committee that he did intend to run, and that a formal announcement would be forthcoming soon.
As the contest began, some elements of the Tea Party movement supported Hayworth, but others stayed out of the contest, and still others supported Jim Deakin. The threat from Hayworth helped account for McCain's sometimes-awkward reversals or softpedallings of his former positions on issues such as the bank bailouts, national security, campaign finance reform, and gays in the military; Hayworth said, "John is undergoing a campaign conversion." McCain remained strong among party centrists and independents, and had strong financial resources. McCain also had the endorsements of the entire Arizona congressional delegation. Regardless, pundits predicted it would become "one of the country's fiercest political contests of 2010."
Hayworth officially launched his bid on February 15, 2010, in Phoenix. His announcement led Simcox to drop his campaign and endorse Hayworth, saying that he wanted to present a united conservative front. Hayworth attracted the support of a good number of top-rated radio talk show hosts, including Michael Savage. Hayworth called for a series of 10 debates between himself and McCain. This echoed a proposal that McCain had unsuccessfully made to Obama during their 2008 presidential campaign; this time, McCain labeled the idea a "desperate publicity stunt." With Hayworth using the campaign slogan "The Consistent Conservative," McCain backed off his reputation for unorthodoxy, saying, "I never considered myself a maverick. I consider myself a person who serves the people of Arizona to the best of his abilities." McCain's former vice presidential running mate, Sarah Palin, staged a campaign appearance with him in late March; she said that McCain was deserving of support among Tea Party movement-types. Many in the crowd came to see Palin rather than McCain and were unsure of whom they would vote for in the primary.
Both candidates endorsed Arizona SB 1070, the anti-illegal immigration state law passed in April 2010 that aroused national controversy, and both made tough stands on border control central to their campaigns. McCain retained a financial edge, having $4.6 million in hand at the end of the first quarter to Hayworth's $861,000.
Hayworth's campaign began to struggle when infomercials he had made in 2007 came to light, which had pitched access to free government payment programs from a company that was accused of swindling thousands of people. McCain ran television ads that labeled Hayworth a "huckster," and in return Hayworth's wife charged McCain with engaging in deliberate character assassination. Hayworth also had difficulty rallying conservative backing due to his past support for Congressional earmarks and for his past associations with lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
During the summer, McCain began running immigration-themed ads featuring Pinal County sheriff Paul Babeu, who is also a strong supporter of SB 1070; however, Hayworth asked McCain to withdraw the ads because Babeu had recently appeared on the white nationalist radio show The Political Cesspool.
After spending over $20 million during the primaries, McCain still had more than $1 million cash on hand after the primary election. Glassman has criticized McCain on women's issues. In August 2010, Glassman released a TV advertisement called "Arizona First."
September 26: All four candidates on KTVK-TV in Phoenix. It ran without commercial interruption from 6 pm to 7 pm