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Mark Kelly first Democrat to jump into U.S. Senate race

In this 2017 photo, former astronaut Mark Kelly, with wife Gabrielle Giffords looking on, launches a coalition to push for what he said are more sensible gun laws. Kelly announced today he will run for U.S. Senate in 2020. (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)

In this 2017 photo, former astronaut Mark Kelly, with wife Gabrielle Giffords looking on, launches a coalition to push for what he said are more sensible gun laws. Kelly announced today he will run for U.S. Senate in 2020. (Capitol Media Services photo by Howard Fischer)

Retired astronaut and gun control advocate Mark Kelly launched a bid for U.S. Senate on Tuesday.

The husband of former congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, Kelly announced that he will seek to fill the late Sen. John McCain’s seat — setting up a likely contest with Sen. Martha McSally.

Since Giffords was shot in a failed assassination attempt in 2011, Democrats have pushed Kelly to run for various political offices. Both Giffords and Kelly have advocated for gun control measures since the shooting in Tucson.

If Kelly, 54, wins the Democratic nomination — he is the first candidate to announce — the Senate contest will be between the Navy veteran and former astronaut and McSally, the first female Air Force pilot.

Gov. Doug Ducey appointed McSally, a Republican, as a placeholder to the U.S. Senate seat last year.

Kelly announced his Senate bid with a four-minute video shared on social media. The video shows Kelly and Giffords in their Tucson-area home. Kelly talks about his military service — showing off his old Navy uniform — and his time as an astronaut.

The video also shows news footage from the day Giffords was shot and the difficulty of her recovery. Giffords was shot at an event outside a Tucson grocery store in an incident that left six dead and 13 wounded. Shooter Jared Loughner is serving life in prison.

Toward the end of the video, Kelly says he was motivated to run because of a growing opposition to science, data and facts. He also cites the importance of access to affordable health care, a strong economy and recognizing the signs of climate change that are creating a drought in the desert.

Kelly praises his wife for her devotion to public service and all that she has taught him.

“What I learned from my wife is how you use policy to improve people’s lives,” he said.

The winner of the 2020 election will see out the remainder of McCain’s term, but would also have to run again in 2022 to secure a full, six-year term.

Democrats could face a tough nomination fight if U.S. Rep Ruben Gallego also jumps into the Senate race.

Former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods, a former Republican who changed his party affiliation last year, announced Friday that he will not vie for the Democratic nomination.

 

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