Former astronaut Mark Kelly announces he’s running for John McCain’s Senate seat in an emotional ad featuring his wife Gabby Giffords

Newly-announced US Senate candidate Mark Kelly Brian Ach/Getty Images
  • Retired astronaut Mark Kelly announced his bid for former Sen. John McCain’s Arizona seat on Tuesday morning with a digital campaign ad.
  • Kelly, a Navy veteran and Democrat, presented himself as a science and data-focused problem solver who would work across partisan divides.
  • The ad also features Kelly’s wife, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and her years-long recovery from a 2011 assassination attempt that pushed the couple to become outspoken gun control advocates.

Retired astronaut and Navy veteran Mark Kelly announced his bid for former Sen. John McCain’s Arizona seat on Tuesday morning with a campaign ad framing him as a data-focused problem-solver.

If Kelly prevails in the Democratic primary, he’ll face Republican Sen. Martha McSally, who was appointed in December by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey to fill McCain’s seat.

In the ad, Kelly presents himself as a team player who would work across partisan divides to address issues like healthcare, wages, job growth, and climate change. He never mentions he’s a Democrat.

“It becomes pretty obvious pretty early when you get into space that we’re all kind of in this together,” Kelly says at the beginning of the 4.5-minute video. “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. We’re going to need to bring people together from all parts of the state and all walks of life.”

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He adds that “partisanship and polarization and gerrymandering and corporate money have ruined our politics.”

Kelly and his wife, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, have become outspoken gun control advocates in the years since Giffords was shot and nearly killed in a 2011 assassination attempt that killed six and wounded a dozen others. The ad features Giffords’ years of recovery and Kelly’s role in helping fight for policy change.

“What I learned from my wife is how you use policy to improve people’s lives,” he said. He frames his campaign as a team effort with Giffords.

Kelly will likely face a few challengers in the Democratic primary, including a possible run by Rep. Ruben Gallego, an Arizona Democrat serving his third term in the House.

“I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m looking seriously at running for the U.S. Senate in 2020, and that hasn’t changed,” Gallego said. “I’ll be making a final decision and announcement soon.”

McSally, a former Air Force fighter pilot, lost her 2018 bid for Senate against Democrat Kyrsten Sinema. McSally’s current seat was first filled by former Sen. Jon Kyl, who was appointed to fill the role after McCain’s death in August and stepped down at the end of 2018.