Mark Kelly Enters Arizona’s 2020 Senate Race

Mark Kelly Enters Arizona’s 2020 Senate Race

Former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly announced today that he is running for the Arizona Senate seat once held by John McCain.  Martha McSally, a Republican like McCain, now holds the seat on a temporary basis after being appointed by Arizona’s governor after she lost her own race for the other Arizona Senate seat to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema.  Kelly is running as a Democrat, too, and the race is seen as one of the keys to Democrats regaining control of the Senate.

Mark Kelly is best known in space circles as a four-time shuttle astronaut (STS-108, STS-121, STS-124, STS-134) whose twin brother and fellow astronaut, Scott Kelly, spent almost a year aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

But Mark Kelly’s life and career changed after his wife, Gabrielle Giffords, a Congresswoman from what was then Arizona’s 8th district, was almost assassinated on January 8, 2011 during a meeting with her constituents. She was critically wounded, but survived with permanent injuries.  Six others died and 12 were wounded in the attack by a lone gunman who is now serving seven consecutive life terms in prison.

Kelly and Giffords formed a gun-control advocacy organization, Americans for Responsible Solutions, that later merged with two other groups to become the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence where “legal experts research, write, and defend the laws, policies, and programs proven to save lives from gun violence.”

The video accompanying his announcement makes clear that it is a team effort with his wife — they are going “full steam ahead.”  Indeed, Giffords had been viewed as a potential Senate candidate before her injuries, which, among other things, affect her speech.

Kelly stresses his experience as a Navy Captain who flew 39 combat missions over Iraq and Kuwait, an astronaut, and an engineer in problem solving, “but what I learned from my wife is how you use policy to improve people’s lives.”  What is needed is “teamwork” to address the problems faced by Arizona, including climate change, he says, adding that “We’ve seen this retreat from science, data, facts and if we don’t take these issues seriously we can’t solve the problems. We need to bring people together…”  He ends with the famous line:  “Damn the torpedoes” and, in unison with Giffords, “full speed ahead.”

Kelly will face McSally, and perhaps others, in the special election to fill the final two years of the six-year term to which McCain was reelected in 2016.

Like Kelly, McSally is a former military combat pilot.  Kelly was in the Navy, McSally in the Air Force. She was the first female fighter pilot (A-10 Warthog) to fly in combat and the first to command a fighter squadron in combat.  Kelly retired from the Navy as a Captain; McSally retired from the Air Force as a Colonel.

McSally won election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2014 and served two terms, running for the Senate seat being vacated by Jon Kyl in 2018.  She lost to Sinema 50-48 percent.  After McCain’s death in August 2018, Kyl was appointed to fill McCain’s term, which still had over four years left (through 2022). Kyl did not want to remain in that position, however, and McSally was appointed to replace him in January 2019 until this special election can be held.


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