Mark Kelly, the former astronaut and husband of former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ), announced this week he’s jumping in the Arizona Senate race. If he successfully navigates the Democratic primary, which remains unclear as Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) openly mulls a Senate run, he will face Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ), who was appointed to fill Sen. John McCain’s seat.
Though Kelly has been in the public eye for years, much is unknown about certain policy positions and how he might hold up as a candidate. AR Intel dug into the available information on Kelly and put together a list of five things to know about the newest Democrat in the Arizona Senate race:
1) Strong gun control advocate
Perhaps best known as the husband to Giffords, Kelly became a strong advocate for gun control after his wife was shot and injured by a gunman in Tucson. In early 2013 Kelly and his wife formed Americans for Responsible Solutions, which later became Giffords, a political organization with a super PAC, 501(c)3, and 501(c)4 arms.
Giffords spent $7 million aiding Democrat candidates in 2018 but not without controversy. In September, the group was forced to alter an ad that used the death of a 16-year-old girl to attack Rep. Mike Coffman in Colorado. They also received harsh criticism for an unfair ad they ran against McSally in 2014.
2) An environmentalist group drafted him to run
In his four-and-a-half-minute announcement video, Kelly put a placed a fair amount of emphasis on environmental issues, which was likely no mistake. In January 2019, environmental group 314 Action launched a six-figure digital ad campaign designed to convince Kelly to run. 314 Action is a group “committed to electing more STEM candidates to office, advocating for evidence-based policy solutions to issues like climate change, and fighting the Trump administration’s attacks on science.”
3) That environmentalism has drawn scrutiny in the past
Kelly and Giffords joined a massive congressional delegation trip in 2009 to Copenhagen for a UN Climate Conference that wound up costing the government $1.1 million and required “three military jets” to transport everyone. The trip “produced enough carbon dioxide to fill 10,000 Olympic swimming pools.”
Ten years later, voters may care less about the details of such a trip, but the hypocrisy shows Kelly is vulnerable to similar attacks in a potential Democratic primary.
4) Swore off PAC money
The latest trend in Democratic campaigns is swearing off corporate PAC money, and Kelly’s announcement included such a pledge. But as the Atlantic pointed out in August 2018, the gesture is mostly symbolic because “[m]ost nonincumbents don’t receive any corporate-pac donations, and they generally constitute only a small percentage of total contributions for those running for reelection.”
The move is a bit hypocritical, too, considering Kelly helps run a massive super PAC that shells out millions each cycle to political candidates. Giffords might not be a corporation, but if Kelly’s gesture is to appease those who want to remove money from politics, it’s a bit hollow.
5) Largely undefined on numerous policy positions
The Huffington Post noted on Wednesday that Kelly is “still ideologically undefined” as a Democratic candidate for office. While we can expect Kelly to take up all of the token Democratic issues in a general election, a primary challenge from Gallego or any other serious Democrat could force Kelly to take positions that may result in making him more vulnerable in the general election. Even without a primary challenger, expect Kelly to be asked about his positions on the Green New Deal, eliminating private health insurance though Medicare for All, and other hot-button liberal issues.