Mark Kelly, the retired astronaut who is married to former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, is eyeing a run for the U.S. Senate from Arizona in 2020, the Arizona Republic reported Thursday.
An organization called 314 Action, which encourages the election of political candidates with a background in STEM fields, has launched an effort to draft Kelly for the campaign, although a spokesman for Kelly confirmed that he is interested in the race.
Kelly, who was a Navy captain prior to his service with NASA, married Giffords in 2007. In 2011, Giffords was shot in an attempted assassination attempt in Tucson, Arizona, and nearly died, while six others were killed. Giffords survived but resigned from Congress the following year. Kelly and Giffords went on to found Americans for Responsible Solutions, an organization dedicated to reforming gun laws.
Mark Kelly, should he win what could be a competitive Democratic primary, would likely face Republican Sen. Martha McSally, who was appointed last month to the seat that was long held by Sen. John McCain prior to his death last year.
McSally ran for the state’s other U.S. Senate seat in 2018, losing the election to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema, but she was appointed by Gov. Doug Ducey to the former McCain seat, which had been held for the previous six months by another Republican, former Senator Jon Kyl. The 2020 election is to serve the final two years of McCain’s term; the winner would face re-election again in 2022.
While President Trump won Arizona in 2016, Sinema’s victory shows that it’s possible for a Democrat to win a statewide race there in the Trump era.
314 Action said in a statement that “it’s encouraging to see folks in the science and tech communities spurring us to deal with these serious problems. Mark is considering running for U.S. Senate in order to address climate change, wage growth and many other serious issues.” The group added that they believe a former astronaut has first-hand knowledge of climate issues and has launched a website at DraftMarkKelly.org. Kelly is the first candidate that the group is backing in the 2020 cycle.
Kelly has been on four space missions, in 2001, 2006, 2008, and 2011, retiring following his wife’s injuries. His identical twin brother, Scott Kelly, is also an astronaut, although the reports last year that the two are no longer genetically identical were not true, National Geographic reported.
U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego, a Democrat, has also been mentioned as a potential candidate, as has former McCain aide Grant Woods.