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Pence visit with McSally closes I-19 between Tucson, Green Valley

Interstate 19 will be closed between Tucson and Green Valley for much of Thursday afternoon due to the visit to a Caterpillar facility by Vice President Mike Pence, authorities said.

The interstate will be closed in both directions between Valencia Road and Duval Mine Road until as late as 3 p.m. Some local road closures may also take place briefly as a security measure for Pence.

The Republican vice president is joining U.S. Sen. Martha McSally in Arizona this week at a series of private events in Green Valley, Phoenix and Scottsdale, including a fundraiser and a trade speech at a Caterpillar testing center south of Tucson.

For that visit in Green Valley, traffic will be detoured onto Nogales Highway, east of the freeway, between Valencia and Continential Road for southbound traffic, and on Nogales Highway between Continental, Esperanza Boulevard or Duval Mine Road and Valencia for northbound vehicles.

The interstate was closed mid-morning. It may re-open sometime after 2 p.m.

Pence was scheduled to take part in a "McSally Victory" reception in Phoenix on Wednesday evening, and a roundtable discussion at a Scottsdale church Thursday morning with a group of Hispanic leaders.

The vice president will promote the Trump administration's United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement at Caterpillar’s Tinaja Hills testing center in Green Valley on Thursday. The event will not be open to the public.

McSally and Pence's meeting at the First Baptist Church of Scottsdale is billed as a "Southwest Hispanic Leaders Roundtable."

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Pence was scheduled to fly between Phoenix and Tucson on Air Force 2 on Thursday, landing at Tucson International Airport.

Arizona Democratic spokesman Brad Bainum blasted Pence for "making a fundraising trip to bail out unelected Sen. Martha McSally."

The Republican, who was appointed to the Senate after losing the November 2018 election to Krysten Sinema, faces an election next year to hang on to her seat, with Mark Kelly, husband of former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, as her likely Democratic opponent.

McSally has drawn a pair of right-wing challengers in the GOP primary: skincare company exec Daniel McCarthy and former revenge-porn website operator Craig Brittain.

McSally has closely allied herself with President Donald Trump from the beginning of her 2018 Senate campaign, despite earlier attempting to leave some distance between herself and the White House when she held a Southern Arizona congressional seat.

Pence's visit, even if not nominally connected to her campaign, is an opportunity for McSally to display her Trump-supporting credentials to members of Republican factions that might be wavering in their support of her.

Pence visited Arizona in April to garner publicity for Trump's border-wall plans.

The FAA on Monday issued temporary flight restrictions around Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, barring many private planes from flying in the area on Wednesday and Thursday because of "VIP movement."

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Arizona Republic photo/Nick Oza, Pool

Vice President Mike Pence speaks to Arizona Governor Doug Ducey and members of the Border Patrol in Nogales, Ariz., in April 2019.