By JONATHAN J. COOPER
PHOENIX (AP) — The Libertarian candidate for U.S. Senate from Arizona, Marc Victor, dropped out of the race Tuesday and urged his supporters to vote for Republican Blake Masters.
The endorsement came after overtures to Victor from Masters campaign aides and after Masters persuaded Victor in a Zoom conversation to back him. Victor posted video of their 25-minute discussion on his website.
“While we don’t see eye to eye on everything I feel very confident after that conversation that Blake Masters is going to do everything he possibly can to further the interests of the Live and Let Live Global Peace Movement,” Victor said in a video, referring to the organization he founded to advance his libertarian worldview.
The race is one of a handful that will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate. The chamber is now divided evenly between Republicans and Democrats, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting tiebreaking votes.
Some Republicans had worried that Victor would act as a spoiler, drawing votes from right-leaning voters who might have supported Masters in a head-to-head matchup against Kelly.
The impact will be blunted, however, because the decision comes so close to the election that Victor’s name will still appear on all ballots. More than 500,000 people had already voted by Oct. 25 and millions more had mail ballots in hand.
Four years ago, a Green Party candidate dropped out of the Senate race days before the election amid fears among Democrats that she would be a spoiler. She still garnered 2.4% of the vote, and Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema still won the race.
Victor is a defense attorney and longtime advocate for libertarian ideas. He was critical of both Masters and Kelly during the race’s only televised debate. He has also said he’s considering changing his party affiliation to Republican to run against Sinema.
“This is another major boost of momentum as we consolidate our support against the extreme and radical policies of Mark Kelly and Joe Biden,” Masters said in a statement.
Kelly shrugged off the significance, telling reporters during a campaign stop at Arizona State University that “this race has always been between me and Blake Masters.”
Masters, 36 was a strident libertarian as a high school and college student, espousing his limited-government views in online posts that sparked controversies during the GOP primary. As a candidate, he’s described himself as an “America First conservative.” He told NBC News in July that his libertarian beliefs were “kind of childish” and that he’s become a conservative as he’s grown up.
Masters has been reaching out to libertarians during the closing days of the campaign as he looks to shore up his support among voters who lean to the right. He appeared on former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul’s podcast last week and touted Paul’s endorsement on social media, posting a 12-year-old picture of himself with Paul, who built a following among young libertarians during his campaigns for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008 and 2012.
Kelly’s victory in a 2020 special election was powered by support from 61% of independents and 12% of Republicans, according to data from AP VoteCast, a survey of 3,772 voters in Arizona.
Learn more about the issues and factors at play in the midterms at https://apnews.com/hub/explaining-the-elections. And follow the AP’s election coverage of the 2022 elections at https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections.