Former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, left, walks with her husband Mark Kelly, who recently announced he is running in the Democratic primary for the 2020 special election to fill the late U.S. Sen. John McCain’s seat.      

Activist and former astronaut Mark Kelly is running to be the standard-bearer for the Democratic Party in the 2020 special election to fill the seat of the late U.S. Sen. John McCain.

Kelly’s wife is former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords. A Jewish Tucson resident, Giffords survived a near fatal assassination attempt in 2011 while meeting with constituents in her hometown. Eighteen others were wounded and six people were killed in the shooting. Since resigning from the U.S. Congress, Giffords has been advocating for gun control. Kelly, who retired from NASA to help in his wife’s recovery, has joined Giffords’ mission. 

Kelly announced his bid to run in the Democratic primary in a video released on Twitter on Feb. 12.

“I learned a lot from being an astronaut. I learned a lot from being a pilot in the Navy. I learned a lot about solving problems from being an engineer,” Kelly said in the video. “But what I learned from my wife is how you use policy to improve people’s lives.” 

Kelly called his Senate run “his next mission.”

Kelly pointed to climate change, affordable health care, wage stagnation and job growth as issues Arizonans will face. He followed up by sending an email to supporters in which he said he will not accept corporate PAC money.

“Our fight to improve our gun laws and my commitment to tackling climate change and ending the outrageous influence corporate money has on our politics means there are a lot of powerful interests who want to stop us,” Kelly wrote in the email.

Kelly is the first Democrat to officially enter the primary race for McCain’s former Senate seat. Kelly could face opposition from U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego, who has announced he is considering a run. In an email blast on Feb. 14, Gallego asked for the public’s input to help make his decision. 

Last year in an historic first, Kyrsten Sinema was elected to the U.S. Senate, making her the first woman from Arizona to ever be elected to the Senate and the first Democrat from the Grand Canyon State to hold the seat since Dennis DeConcini was elected in 1976 to the first of his three terms.

Sinema defeated Republican Martha McSally, who was later appointed to fill McCain’s open seat. Following McCain’s death, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey appointed former Republican U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl to the seat. Kyl resigned on Dec. 31 and Ducey appointed McSally to hold the seat until the special election next year.

Kelly will hold his first campaign events this weekend in Tucson and Phoenix.  JN

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