Peter Thiel makes $10M bet on associate in Arizona Senate race

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Libertarian tech titan Peter Thiel is spending $10 million to boost one of his closest allies in next year’s Arizona Senate race, a contest crucial to the fight for the majority.

The billionaire is coming out in support of Blake Masters, the chief operating officer of Thiel Capital and the president of the Thiel Foundation, who is expected to soon enter the race. Thiel, who co-founded PayPal, is bankrolling Saving Arizona PAC, a newly formed, pro-Masters super PAC, according to a person familiar with the investment.

Thiel is emerging as one of the biggest donors of the 2022 election cycle, spending heavily to bolster close associates who are seeking office. He recently cut a $10 million check to a super PAC supporting author J.D. Vance, who is expected to run for Ohio’s open Senate seat. Thiel has previously provided financial backing to Narya, a Vance-co-founded venture capital firm.

Thiel’s support could play a major role in Arizona by helping Masters possibly scare away would-be Republican opponents. The list of potential candidates also includes state Attorney General Mark Brnovich, energy company executive Jim Lamon and Rep. Andy Biggs. The anti-tax Club for Growth has signaled it would likely back Biggs, the chair of the conservative House Freedom Caucus and an outspoken supporter of former President Donald Trump, should he enter the contest.

Some Republicans also pine for GOP Gov. Doug Ducey, who is term-limited next year. But Ducey — who has said he does not plan to run for Senate — has come into Trump’s crosshairs recently for a perceived lack of support for state legislative Republicans’ efforts to "audit" last year’s election results in Maricopa County, where a majority of the state’s voters live.

Republicans are looking to unseat Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly, whom they have identified as one of their top targets after Kelly’s special election victory last year. But the state has grown increasingly Democratic friendly in recent years; Democrats hold the state’s two Senate seats and President Joe Biden carried Arizona’s 11 electoral votes. Kelly, a retired astronaut who is married to former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, reported raising $4.4 million during the first three months of this year.

Masters, a Stanford-educated venture capitalist and attorney, has generated early attention as a likely candidate. He publicly mulled waging a 2020 primary challenge to then-GOP Sen. Martha McSally, though he ultimately decided against it. Masters has long been close with Thiel: In 2014, the two co-authored "Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future."

Thiel has been a big Republican donor for well over a decade, dishing out hundreds of thousands of dollars to support Trump’s campaigns. His favored candidates have not always been successful, however. During the 2020 cycle, he contributed more than $2 million to a super PAC that supported the Senate candidacy of Kansas Republican Kris Kobach. Kobach, a bomb-throwing, anti-immigration conservative who was opposed by the GOP establishment, lost the primary to now-GOP Sen. Roger Marshall.

But Thiel’s investments in Masters and Vance are by far his largest in support of any federal candidate. Those close to Thiel say he’s also looking at potentially supporting other 2022 contenders, such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is seeking reelection, and army veteran Joe Kent, who is waging a challenge to GOP Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, a Trump impeachment backer, in Washington state’s all-party primary next year.

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