This has been a long time in coming, but it’s now official: Mark Kelly, an American astronaut and husband of former Rep. Gabby Giffords, is running for US Senate in Arizona in 2020. Former astronaut Mark Kelly announces his Arizona Senate campaign:
Kelly announced on Tuesday that he would seek the late John McCain’s seat, which Sen. Martha McSally was appointed to last year after losing her Senate race to Kyrsten Sinema. The emotional four-and-a-half-minute video starts with Kelly recalling his first sunrise in space, traces his family history, and then turns to Giffords’s shooting in 2011 and the themes on which he will run in the upcoming campaign.
“What I learned from my wife is how you use policy to improve people’s lives,” Kelly says, citing health care, economic stagnation, and climate change as challenges that need to be addressed.
“Solving some of the problems requires one thing, and that’s teamwork,” Kelly says. “Partisanship and polarization and gerrymandering and corporate money have ruined our politics and it’s divided us.”
Kelly’s entrance into the race is a major recruiting win for Democrats as they look to reclaim the Senate majority in the next election. He boasts a strong biography and enjoys a high public profile; though Giffords’s shooting eventually forced her to step down from Congress, she and Kelly have maintained active roles in the public discourse, advocating strongly for gun control measures over the past decade.
Kelly would have to win a Democratic primary, of course, and Rep. Ruben Gallego has openly pondered his own Senate run in 2020. McSally seems like the likely Republican opponent. She will be a quasi-incumbent, appointed after her midterm loss by Gov. Doug Ducey to fill McCain’s seat, temporarily held by Jon Kyl immediately after McCain’s death.
Arizona marks one of the prime Democratic pickup opportunities as they look to flip the current 53-47 Republican Senate majority. Sinema narrowly prevailed there over McSally in 2018, and the state has trended toward Democrats, particularly in presidential election years. Donald Trump won by less than 4 points over Hilary Clinton in 2016.
Former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods, a lifelong Republican who only recently became a Democrat announced last week that he will not run, citing that he didn’t want to fight in a contested Democratic primary,
A Mark Kelly vs. Ruben Gallego primary should be interesting. Both are far superior individuals to Martha McSally, whom I believe will draw a primary challenger from her right as well.
Latino Victory Fund and Democracy for America are rolling out digital ads and a website Wednesday in their latest effort to convince Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego to run for the late Republican Sen. John McCain’s Arizona Senate seat in 2020.
Latino Victory, a PAC that supports Latino candidates, first launched its effort to draft Gallego in September of last year. But the group’s latest move, in partnership with DFA, comes one day after former Astronaut and Navy veteran Mark Kelly announced he will run for the Senate seat as a Democrat.
“Whether at home in Arizona or serving in the Marines in Iraq, Ruben Gallego is a battle-tested patriot who has always put the interests and needs of his constituents first,” said Latino Victory Fund President Cristóbal J. Alex and Democracy for America CEO Yvette Simpson, in a statement first
One of the digital ads includes a photo of Gallego next to text that reads: “It’s time Arizonans are represented by a Latino in the U.S. Senate.” The ads will target voters in Arizona on Facebook and Twitter and will run for several weeks.
The latest turn in Latino Victory’s campaign to draft Gallego also included a notable endorsement from fellow Democratic Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona.
“We need change in Arizona and our nation, and Ruben represents that change,” Grijalva said in a statement. “From fighting to reduce student loan debt for veterans, to pushing for an end to gun violence and working to pass comprehensive immigration reform, Ruben Gallego es nuestro campeón, and that’s why I want Ruben to run for the United States Senate.”
* * *
If Gallego enters the race he’d have to beat Kelly in the Democratic primary and he’d then likely face Sen. Martha McSally, the Arizona Republican appointed to replace McCain. However, freshman Democratic Rep. Greg Stanton, the former mayor of Phoenix, is also weighing a run for the seat.
Arizona is home to the fourth largest population of eligible Latino voters in the country, which gives a “millennial Latino” like Gallego an edge, according to Latino Victory.
Arizona is a top 2020 battleground state, and critical for Democrats to win if they want to flip control of the Senate.