PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5/AP) -- Mark Kelly, retired astronaut and husband of former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, announced Tuesday his intent to run for 2020 U.S. Senate in Arizona.

Kelly said his next mission is for Arizona in an announcement video posted to his website and social media.

The 54-year-old served in the U.S. Navy as a combat pilot and engineer.

He will compete in the Democratic primary and if successful, face off against Republican Martha McSally in a 2020 special election.

McSally is finishing out the term of late Sen. John McCain who died following a year-long battle with glioblastoma. She was appointed to the seat late last year by Gov. Doug Ducey after losing to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema.

The winner of the 2020 race would face re-election in 2022 for a full six-year term.

Kelly described himself as an independent-minded centrist who will take a scientist's data-driven approach to solving problems such as climate change, wage stagnation and health care affordability.

"You see a lot of partisanship in Washington and a lot of polarization, and to some extent we've created that," Kelly told The Associated Press. "It's going to take people who are more independent to fix it. Arizonans value independence."

Kelly decried politicians who "ignore data and facts and in some cases don't even believe in science," but did not take on Trump directly, saying he's "not going to focus on the presidency or the White House." 

Kelly is a firm believer in gun control legislation, co-founding the gun-control organization Americans for Responsible Solutions with Giffords in 2013. Kelly and Giffords have pushed Congress to enact gun control measures with little success. They shifted their focus to state legislatures in recent years, helping to strengthen background checks and domestic violence protections, among other modest protections.

Giffords was severely wounded in a mass shooting on Jan. 8, 2011. The shooting at a Giffords meet-and-greet event outside a grocery store in Tucson left six dead and 13 injured. Shooter Jared Loughner was sentenced to life in prison.

Giffords played a prominent role in the four-minute video Tuesday launching Kelly's campaign.

"I thought then that I had the risky job," Kelly says to Giffords. "Turned out, you were the one that had the risky job."

Kelly told the AP Giffords, who has been a rising Democratic star before the shooting, will join him frequently during campaign appearances.

Arizona has been a longstanding Republican stronghold, but a growing Latino population and frustration among women with Trump have helped Democrats make inroads.

U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego of Phoenix is also considering a Senate run, which would likely set up a tough fight for the Democratic nomination.

"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 on Twitter following Kelly's announcement. "I'll be making a final decision and announcement soon."

Former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods, a lifelong Republican who became a Democrat and a fierce critic of Trump, announced last week that he won’t run, saying he didn’t want to fight in a contested Democratic primary.

Democrats are eagerly watching the Arizona contest, having already defeated McSally. The party is also gauging whether Arizona could be competitive at the presidential level in 2020 after Trump won by 4 percentage points in 2016.

Kelly has never held elected office. He flew combat missions during the first Gulf War and was a Navy test pilot before becoming an astronaut along with his twin brother, Scott Kelly. He flew four space missions over 10 years and commanded the Space Shuttle Endeavor in 2011.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 


Copyright 2019 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

Content Producer

Recommended for you

(13) comments

AZ Native

Oh please no! He rides on the coattails of his wife Gabby who has worn out her getting shot platform until it is threadbare. They play on people's sympathy. He wasn't much of an astronaut and she wasn't much of a politician.

TCAZ

Hey babe!! I know you are laying in a hospital bed in a coma but my ticket to ride on the space station is here ... So I'm gonna go play ... don't go no where ... I'll be back real soon!! [thumbdown]

AZRepublican

I wonder if he will be showing off his brain dead wife on the champagne trial like he always does ??

AZRepublican

Can't wait to see what kind of "#METOO" stuff they dig up on this guy while he was in the military ?

Dean

Wow another left winged socialist hack trying to ruin the country. Hide your legally owned guns because that is what he will be coming after.

momsacorn

He can't ruin the country - Trump already did that and it will likely take generations to repair that horror.

TRUMP supporter

corn fed mom did your corn fed mom have any kids that lived? This dumbocrat is like your corn fed back side, a big giant joke.

RicWin

Another anti-gun wacko trying to run peoples lives and take away our freedoms.

Wazoolie

Guy has dementia.....no thanks.

Shredder

Not a good choice. Coat-tailing on his wife's attack. Not interested.

MyOwnMind

Let's not forget this idiot validated our gun laws work by attempting to purchase a firearm illegally in AZ just a year after his wife was shot.

JustSaying

Important that people be reminded of this!

Thrill22

Should be an interesting race.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.