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McSally-Sinema debate likely to attract attention around the U.S.

When Arizona Senate candidates Martha McSally and Kyrsten Sinema face off in a live debate Monday night, people from around the globe will likely be tuning in – or least catching the highlights.

National and international networks – including ABC, the Associated Press, BBC, HBO’s “Vice News Tonight” and Showtime’s “The Circus” – plan to attend.

The interest stems from the importance of the race. Democrats have cited it as one of the best opportunities to shift the power balance in Congress.

“There’s this looming question that ‘Oh my gosh, could Arizona be a purple state?’ so to speak,” said Danielle Kurtzleben, NPR politics reporter. “That has everybody watching pretty closely to see if it’s possible that the route of long-standing, relatively red state could be moving in a less-red direction.”

The candidates have poured millions of dollars into advertising attacking one another, and tonight’s debate is the only scheduled one between the two contenders.

This is a historic race for Arizona. It’s the first time a woman will represent Arizona in the U.S. Senate. Arizona is one of six states that have female Republican and Democratic candidates seeking Senate seats in the 2018 midterms, according to CNN. Additionally, the state has not elected a Democrat as senator since Dennis Deconcini’s re-election in 1988.

Republican McSally, a two-term congresswoman representing Tucson, and Democrat Sinema, a three-term congresswoman representing central Phoenix, are competing to fill the Sen. Jeff Flake’s open seat after the GOP senator declined to seek re-election.

Arizona’s Senate race could be gaining national attention because Democrats have “very few options to play offense” in this year’s election, said Kyle Kondik, who analyzes elections with the University of Virginia Center for Politics. Of the 35 available congressional seats, the Democrats now hold 26.

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“Kyrsten Sinema seems like a very serious candidate, so does Martha McSally throughout the cycle and polling is very close,” Kondik said. “It’s one of the more key Senate races in the country.”

Poll numbers indicate it might be a tight race. McSally is only 0.3 percentage points ahead of Sinema, 45.3 percent compared to 45 percent, according to averaged polling numbers by RealClearPolitics.

“Arizona Horizon” host Ted Simons and Arizona Republic reporter Maria Polletta will moderate the debate, which will air live on Arizona PBS in Phoenix. The debate starts at 6 p.m. C-SPAN will also air the debate live.

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Left: Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, Right: Rep. Martha McSally