Mark Kelly launches Senate bid in Arizona

Retired astronaut Mark Kelly on Tuesday said he will run for a Senate seat in his adopted home state of Arizona, giving Democrats an early chance at a seat they have not held since the late Sen. Carl Hayden (D) retired in 1969.

Kelly spent more than 54 days in space across three NASA missions. He has turned to politics in the years since his wife, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D), survived an assassination attempt in a 2011 mass shooting that claimed the lives of six others. 

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Announcing his campaign in a video posted to Twitter, Kelly leaned hard into his career as a Navy aviator and astronaut — and on his wife, who appeared with him.

“It becomes pretty obvious pretty early when you get into space that we’re all in this together,” Kelly said in the video.

 

Kelly will face another former aviator, Sen. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyGOP Senate campaign arm hits battleground-state Dems over 'Medicare for All,' Green New Deal Senate Republicans tested on Trump support after Mueller Trump gives nod to vulnerable GOP Sen. McSally with bill signing MORE (R), who held the same seat in Congress that Giffords once held.

McSally was appointed to fill the remainder of the late Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainIf you don't think illegal immigrants are voting for president, think again 10 factors making Russia election interference the most enduring scandal of the Obama era Earth Day founder's daughter: Most Republican leaders believe in climate change in private MORE’s (R) term after McCain’s first replacement, Jon Kyl, stepped down at the end of last year. McSally had run for an open Senate seat last year, losing narrowly to Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D).

Kelly’s interest in running for the seat was a poorly guarded secret. He met with Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerMJ Hegar announces Texas Senate bid Hillicon Valley: House Dems subpoena full Mueller report | DOJ pushes back at 'premature' subpoena | Dems reject offer to view report with fewer redactions | Trump camp runs Facebook ads about Mueller report | Uber gets B for self-driving cars Dem legal analyst says media 'overplayed' hand in Mueller coverage MORE (D-N.Y.) and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairwoman Catherine Cortez MastoCatherine Marie Cortez MastoLife in the minority at the FCC Dem senators call for Trump to restore release for pregnant migrants Jury rejects Harry Reid lawsuit against fitness band maker MORE (D-Nev.) earlier this year to discuss the race, and he had identified a campaign manager by last month, sources told The Hill.

He has been working with Rodd McLeod, a veteran Arizona Democratic strategist who worked on Giffords’s first race. 

The Arizona Democrat said Tuesday he would work to ensure affordable health care and wage growth, standard Democratic talking points. But he struck a tone similar to Sinema, who ran her 2018 campaign by tacking more toward the middle of the ideological spectrum than toward the left.

“Partisanship and polarization and gerrymandering and corporate money have ruined our politics, and it’s divided us,” Kelly said. “We’ve seen this retreat from science and data and facts, and if we don’t take these issues seriously, we can’t solve these problems.”

Arizona and national Democrats see Kelly as their ideal candidate against McSally in a state that has moved left in recent years. No Democrat has won Arizona’s presidential electoral votes since Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonFive town hall takeaways: Warren shines, Sanders gives ammo to critics Heavy lapses in judgment are politicizing the justice system Bernie Sanders claims his Sister Souljah moment MORE in 1996, but Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump rips Krugman, NYT after columnist writes GOP no longer believes in American values Klobuchar jokes to Cuomo: 'I feel you creeping over my shoulder' but 'not in a Trumpian manner' Dems seek to rein in calls for impeachment MORE came within 3.5 points of winning there in 2016.

Sinema became the first Democrat to win a Senate seat in Arizona since Dennis DeConcini in 1988, and Democrats now hold five of the state’s nine congressional districts.

Kelly may not have the race all to himself. Rep. Ruben GallegoRuben GallegoGallego tapped as national campaign chairman for Swalwell presidential bid Hispanic Caucus asks for meeting with top immigration official Mark Kelly raises eye-popping million in Arizona Senate race MORE (D) is considering a bid as well. Another potential candidate, former Attorney General Grant Woods — a Republican-turned-Democrat who served as McCain’s first congressional chief of staff — said earlier this week he would not run.

Updated at 9:02 a.m.