PHOENIX – Retired astronaut Mark Kelly, a Democrat, announced on Tuesday that he will run for the Senate seat formerly held by the late John McCain, a Republican.
Kelly, the husband of former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, made the announcement on a campaign video posted on his Twitter account.
The former NASA astronaut is one of the main Democratic figures to challenge Republican Sen. Martha McSally, who was appointed to the post by the state governor late last year.
It is expected that the Arizona Senate race will be one of the most heavily contested of the 2020 elections.
Kelly, 54, in his video says that during his campaign he will fight for “affordable health care,” job growth, improving the economy and battling climate change, all of which he says are major issues that residents of Arizona will face in the coming years.
“My next mission? #FullSpeedAhead #ForArizona,” Kelly tweeted when he posted the campaign video, which is over four minutes long.
“I care about people. I care about the state of Arizona. I care about this nation,” Kelly said. “So because of that, I’ve decided I’m launching a campaign for the United States Senate.”
In the video, Kelly provides a detailed account of his experience as a former Navy pilot, an astronaut and being the husband of Giffords, who was severely wounded when she was shot in the head in a 2011 assassination attempt at a Tucson meet-and-greet event at which six people died.
“The thing I have to do for my wife is to be able to think clearly and make good decisions. You gotta move ahead and try to make a difference in the world,” Kelly said. “What I learned from my wife is how you use policy to improve people’s lives.”
“Solving some of the hardest problems requires one thing – and that’s teamwork,” he said. “Partisanship and polarization and gerrymandering and corporate money have ruined our politics and it’s divided us.”
“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,” Kelly added.
Giffords, too, appears with her husband in the video, at the end of which the pair say together: “Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead.”
Kelly, who flew 39 combat missions during Operation Desert Storm, has never held elective office, but – like his wife – he has become a prominent advocate for gun control.
Gov. Doug Ducey named McSally to occupy McCain’s Senate seat after his first nominee, former Sen. Jon Kyl, resigned after just a few months in the post.
The 2020 election will decide who will serve out the last two years of McCain’s term and the winner will presumably run again for a regular six-year term in 2022.
Phoenix Democratic Congressman Ruben Gallego is also considering a run for the Senate seat.
Former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods, a Republican all his life who then became a Democrat and has been a ferocious critic of President Donald Trump, last week announced that he would not run in the election.
Kelly received a degree in marine engineering and nautical science from the US Merchant Marine Academy, graduating with highest honors in 1986, according to his NASA biography, and he also has a Master’s degree in aeronautical engineering.
He was selected to train to become a NASA space shuttle pilot in 1996 and first went into space in 2001 as pilot of STS-108. He piloted another shuttle mission in 2006 and commanded two additional missions in 2008 and 2011, after which he retired from NASA.
While in the military, Kelly was presented with the Distinguished Flying Cross, the NASA Exceptional Service Medal and assorted other awards.