One of the closest races of the 2018 midterms was the battle for the U.S. Senate seat in Arizona vacated by Jeff Flake. It took a recount to determine that Democrat Kyrsten Sinema edged out Republican Martha McSally, who ignored calls from the White House to accuse her opponent of voter fraud. McSally was rewarded less than a month later, though, when Arizona Governor Doug Ducey tapped her to step in for Jon Kyl, who replaced John McCain following his death in August, only to resign in December. It’s going to be tough for McSally to hang on to the seat beyond 2020, though.
On Tuesday morning, retired astronaut Mark Kelly announced that he will oppose McSally. The news came through a video in which Kelly touched on his upbringing, his career as a navy pilot and his relationship with wife Gabby Giffords, the former congresswoman who survived an assassination attempt in 2011. “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 being an engineer,” he says in the video. “But what I learned from my wife is how you use problems to improve people’s lives.”
Kelly went on to address affordable health care, wage stagnation, climate change and other issues plaguing the United States. “Solving some of the hardest problems requires one thing, and that’s teamwork.” he said. “Partisanship and polarization and gerrymandering and corporate money have ruined our politics. It’s divided us.”
He also criticized the nation’s “retreat from science and data and facts” saying that “if we don’t take these issues seriously, we can’t solve these problems.” Not unrelated were his highly publicized criticisms of President Trump’s mostly aborted plan to create a Space Force. “He turned his joke into government policy that will cost billions of dollars and will not strengthen the capability of the Untied States Department of Defense,” Kelly said last year.
Kelly wouldn’t be the first former astronaut to serve in the Senate. The late John Glenn — who, like Kelly, was both a pilot in the armed forces and an engineer before becoming an astronaut — represented Ohio in the U.S. Senate from 1974 to 1999. If elected, Kelly, who is only 54, could potentially hold office for just as long. Tuesday morning’s launch video wasn’t a bad start.
“Damn the torpedoes,” he concluded in unison with Giffords, who was sitting by his side. “Full speed ahead.”
Meanwhile, Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), acknowledged Kelly’s announcement with a tweet: “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. I’ll be making a final decision and announcement soon.”