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Thursday, December 7, 2023

Astronaut not a shoo-in against Sen. McSally


Former astronaut Mark Kelly just announced his intention to run for the U.S. Senate in 2020 for the Senate seat now occupied by Martha McSally. “McSally was the Republican nominee in Arizona’s 2018 U.S. Senate election, losing 50–48% to Democratic Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema. Following that election, interim U.S. Senator Jon Kyl announced his resignation from the state’s other seat. Governor Doug Ducey then appointed McSally to succeed Kyl.”  McSally is a retired Air Force colonel and combat pilot veteran. She is an Air Force Academy graduate and received her Masters in Public Policy from Harvard University. Wikipedia

It is already being reported (on MSNBC) that Mark Kelly will be challenging Republican Sen. McSally in the general election.

In the online video announcing his candidacy Kelly says “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 from being an engineer; but what I learned from my wife is how you use policy to improve people’s lives.” He highlights his experience as an astronaut and Navy pilot in addition to his views on climate change, affordable health care, the stagnation of wages, job growth and the economy.

“We’ve seen this retreat from science and data and facts,” he says.  He is best known nationally as former Rep. Gabby Giffords husband who was standing next to her when she nearly lost her life in an assassination attempt.
However, there is another Democrat who is poised to enter the race. He is the serving U.S. Representative Ruben Marinelarena Gallego.

The New York Times reported today that “Mr. Kelly may not have an open path to the Democratic nomination. At least one other prominent Democrat, Representative Ruben Gallego, has been exploring the race. He could present a challenge to Mr. Kelly on the left. Mr. Gallego said on Tuesday morning that he was still considering the race, indicating he would not make way for Mr. Kelly. “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,” Mr. Gallego said on Twitter. “I’ll be making a final decision and announcement soon.”

Rep. Gallego is a combat veteran who joined the Marines after graduating from Harvard University. He did not become an officer, mustering out as a corporal. After completing infantry training, he deployed to Iraq where his unit lost 46 Marines and two Navy corpsmen between January 2005 and January 2006 including his best friend.  He was a staffer to Phoenix City Councilman Michael Nowakowski form 2009 to 2010. He began his career in elected politics when he ran in two losing primary races for the Arizona State House of Representatives in 2010 and 2012. Then he ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2014 and won both the primary and the general election. He currently serves on the House Armed Services and the Natural Resources committees. He is a long-time supporter of LGBT causes and in 2015 became vice-chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus.

In 2014 according to a local paper “at a Washington fundraising event in September for his congressional campaign, Gallego told donors that he plans to spend the next 25 to 30 years in the House, all but ruling out a future run for the Senate.”

In a tweet posted today Gallego wrote: “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.

There were, as of this writing, 25 comments with the overall sentiment being “stay where you are.” Here are several examples:

Replying to

The 2020 Senate races are crucial for both parties since every seat the Democrats can win from incumbent Republicans brings them closer to controlling the Senate. If they hold onto the House as seems likely and win the presidency they will control both the executive and legislative branches of government.

Mark Kelly has signalled in his video that he will be running on his compelling family history, his combat pilot experiences, and of course his experience as an astronaut as much as on his progressive positions. However there is no doubt that he became famous by being Gabby Gifford’s husband, and that he has featured her and their relationship prominently in his video.

The New York Times reports that Mr. Kelly has been among the most closely watched potential Democratic candidates along with Georgia’s Stacey Adams.

While national fame may count for a lot in a national election a Senate race is a different animal altogether. Let’s not count Rep. Gallego out too soon. There’s something to be said for electing people who already know something about governing.

From Kelly’s Twitter account Feb. 12th:

I can’t believe it, but more than 4 million of you watched this video yesterday. It means a lot to me that my story resonated with so many of you. A lot of you have already shared this with me, but which part is your favorite?

A huge thank you to everyone who saw our launch and joined our team yesterday. I’m new to this but I’m told we did well. In the first 24 hours we raised $604K from more than 9,700 contributions. We’re without a DIME of corporate PAC money.

All this being said, odds favor Mark Kelly to win the primary based on name recognition and personal story, and then hopefully the general election. This would make him the second former astronaut to serve in Congress. John Glenn served with distinction from 1974 to 1995 as the senator from Ohio.


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