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Former astronaut Mark Kelly to run for Arizona’s US Senate seat

(AP Photo)

PHOENIX – Former astronaut and Navy pilot Mark Kelly, who has been a champion of gun control since his wife was nearly killed in a mass shooting, said Tuesday that he was running for U.S. Senate in Arizona.

Kelly, a Democrat and husband to former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, made the announcement of his 2020 campaign in a video tweet:

The 54-year-old Kelly is the first to declare for the seat that belongs to Republican Martha McSally, who was appointed by Gov. Doug Ducey in December.

Democrat Kyrsten Sinema beat McSally in the November general election for the spot vacated by Jeff Flake.

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

“I care about people, I care about the state of Arizona, I care about this nation. So because of that, I’ve decided I’m launching a campaign for the United States Senate.”

Kelly’s entry into the race comes days after former state Attorney General Grant Woods told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Bruce St. James and Pamela Hughes that he had decided not to run.

Woods, a recent Democrat, said he wasn’t interested in a primary battle, he had considered running to take the seat from his old party. Woods switched parties after the death of longtime friend Sen. John McCain died in August.

McSally was chosen to take over the remainder of the term that Jon Kyl had temporarily filled.

The 2020 election will decide who finishes the last two years of McCain’s term. The winner would have to run again for a full six-year term in 2022.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego was also considering a Senate run, which would likely set up a tough fight for the party nomination.

Kelly, Gallego and McSally all are veterans. Gallego served in the Marines and McSally was an Air Force combat pilot.

Kelly stepped into the spotlight after Giffords was shot in the head at a constituent event in Tucson in January 2011. Six people were killed.

As Giffords recovered, Kelly became more active pushing for gun legislation. The couple launched Americans for Responsible Solutions, a political action committee, in January 2013.

It has since evolved into Giffords.

They have both said they support the Second Amendment but something had to be done to keep “guns out of the hands of dangerous people …”

Kelly has never run for office before. He spent 25 years in the Navy and flew nearly 40 combat missions during the Gulf War.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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