WASHINGTON (CIRCA) — From astronaut to children's author, Mark Kelly has worn a lot of hats in his life. But now, he wants to wear one more: senator from Arizona.
Kelly officially announced his candidacy for the 2020 Arizona senate election Tuesday in a four-minute biopic video that chronicled his adventures, and his tragedies. While Kelly was initially known as one-half of the wonder twins that both traveled in space, he is more recently recognized as the husband of Gabby Giffords, the former congresswoman who was shot in an attempted assassination in 2011.
"What I learned from my wife, is how you use policy to improve people’s lives," Kelly said in the video. "Arizonans are facing incredibly challenging issues here in the years to come. Access to affordable healthcare, the stagnation of wages, job growth, the economy."
Though he is running in his wife's native Arizona, Kelly's roots are in New Jersey. Born into a police family, he tells his mother's story of becoming one of the first female officers in the video, citing it as an example of the value of hard work. Kelly and his twin brother, Scott, both chose to serve in their own way by joining the Navy.
Kelly flew combat missions during the Gulf War, earning several decorations. He entered the public spotlight in 1996, when he was selected to be a pilot for NASA's space shuttle program. Not to be outdone by his twin, Scott was accepted in the same class. The brothers are the first two siblings to have both traveled in space, which further increased their public profiles. Both would go on to have successful careers as astronauts.
Kelly's life changed drastically on Jan. 8, 2011, when he received word his wife had been shot in the head. Initially, he was incorrectly informed that she had died. Giffords survived, but suffered debilitating injuries that took years of surgery and therapy to heal.
The tragedy thrust Kelly into public life, as he and Giffords became prominent gun control advocates. While he has never held public office, Kelly is no stranger to political campaigns. He and Giffords spoke at several campaign events in support of Hillary Clinton in 2016.
But it won't be an easy road for the former astronaut. There's a possibility that Kelly will be challenged for the Democratic nomination by Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego.
Should he get the nod, Kelly will square off in the general election with Republican Sen. Martha McSally, who has just come off a tough loss in a hotly contested race with fellow Sen. Kyrsten Sinema. McSally was appointed to complete the remaining term of recently deceased Sen. John McCain after her loss, meaning she has the advantage of running as an incumbent. McSally also has several years experience as a representative in the House, in addition to her own remarkable career as a female fighter pilot.
What he lacks in experience, Kelly makes up for in name recognition. He will find out if that's enough when the election is held in November 2020.