Mark Kelly, an American astronaut and husband of former Rep. Gabby Giffords, is running for US Senate in Arizona in 2020.
Kelly announced today 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.
— Mark Kelly (@ShuttleCDRKelly) February 12, 2019
“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 commanded NASA’s Space Shuttle twice, and he’s also a former Naval aviator who flew 39 combat missions in Operation Desert Storm.
A few other astronauts in US history have turned to politics after they fly.
The most notable example is former astronaut John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth.
He served as a Democratic senator for Ohio from 1974 to 1999.
Glenn even flew on the Space Shuttle in 1998 during his tenure in the Senate.
Moon walker Harrison “Jack” Schmitt, who flew on Apollo 17, also became a senator in New Mexico in 1976.
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 may face a Democratic opponent: 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.