Democrat Mark Kelly sworn in as next US senator from Arizona

Dec 2, 2020, 12:23 PM | Updated: 2:48 pm




PHOENIX — Mark Kelly was sworn into the U.S. Senate on Wednesday, officially giving Arizona two Democratic senators for the first time in almost 70 years.

Kelly was sworn in by Vice President Mike Pence using a bible passed down from his wife’s grandmother.

He was accompanied by fellow Democratic U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, who was donning a purple wig and an animal-print robe.

Among those watching from the visitors’ gallery were his wife, former Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz., and Scott Kelly, his twin brother and fellow retired astronaut.

It marked the first time Arizona had two Democratic senators since January 1953.

“I’ve faced challenges serving our country at war and in space, and as our country faces new challenges I am ready to serve again and get to work fighting this pandemic that has taken the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans and led to hardship for countless others,” Kelly said in a statement.

Kelly didn’t have to wait until January to start his new job because voters chose him to fill out the term of the late Sen. John McCain in a special election.

The former astronaut, who defeated Republican Martha McSally in the Nov. 3 election, joins the Senate at a time in which lawmakers and President Donald Trump are deadlocked over whether to provide a pre-holiday COVID-19 relief package worth hundreds of billions of dollars.

They’re also trying to address year-end budget work and a defense policy bill.

Kelly cast himself as a problem-solving centrist during his campaign. His slender 2 percentage point victory over McSally suggests he will be part of Democrats’ moderate wing.

“I look forward to partnering with Mark Kelly to cut through Washington dysfunction and deliver results for everyday Arizonans,” Sinema said in a statement. “I am confident Mark will uphold the Arizona values of seeking common ground and putting country above party.”

His arrival reduces the Republican edge in the chamber to 52-48 with two runoff elections in Georgia still to come Jan. 5.

If Democrats win both, they will command the 50-50 chamber for the new Congress that begins in early January because Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would cast tie-breaking votes.

Kelly is the fourth astronaut to be elected to Congress. John Glenn was a Democratic senator from Ohio and Harrison Schmitt was a GOP senator from New Mexico. Republican Jack Swigert was elected to the House from Colorado, but died of cancer before taking office.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Democrat Mark Kelly sworn in as next US senator from Arizona