MARICOPA — Mark Kelly has had many milestones in his life and is now in the midst of pursuing another.
Kelly, a Democrat, is currently running for Arizona’s U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Sen. Martha McSally, who was appointed by Gov. Doug Ducey following the death of John McCain.
Kelly has been a public servant for most of his life, being a former astronaut and Navy pilot during the Persian Gulf War and is the husband of former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, who survived an assassination attempt in 2011. His campaign was launched in February of this year and since then, he has been actively promoting his campaign around Arizona.
On Wednesday Kelly and his team stopped by Maricopa, visiting local businesses, organizations and city officials.
“There’s a pretty good chance I’ve been here before, I just didn’t realize it,” he said.
Aside from meeting business owners, he attended a Blue Star Moms meeting, getting to know the mothers of active duty members and what the organization does for the community.
Tracy Davis, vice president of the group in Maricopa, said he was nothing like what she had expected.
“His demeanor and sense of humor was great,” Davis said. “He was very personable and very humble. And great sense of humor.”
Kelly had been thinking of running for office for a while and with his wife’s full support, he decided to run and seek to create a change in 2019.
“I think you evaluate your personal trajectory at certain times and I just felt like especially in the last two years we’ve seen a level of partisanship and polarization,” Kelly said. “I see a lot of that happening in Washington, D.C., and you can either complain about it or stand up and try to do something about it.”
In regards to his campaign, health care, climate change, cost of education and wage growth are on the agenda of issues he is focusing on. For someone like Kelly, the hard facts of science have been a factor he never ignores.
“It’s frustrating to see someone like me who’s an engineer to see the science, data and facts are not always the top consideration in reality,” Kelly said. “I certainly do not have all the answers, but I feel very independent and would represent folks here in Arizona with an independent voice.”
One of his main areas of focus during his campaign is tackling health care and making sure that Arizonans are receiving the health care they deserve. He mentioned that those with pre-existing conditions must have continuing health care.
“If some members in the Congress would get their way, 400,000 Arizonans would lose their health care coverage. There’s also 2 million Arizonans that have pre-exiting conditions. If certain congressmen would get their way on this issue, many of them would lose their coverage,” Kelly said.
Changing the Affordable Care Act, negotiations with pharmaceutical companies and making sure that everyone has access to secure health care are aspects of the issue he is passionate about.
His campaign also emphasizes that he is not receiving any cooperate political action committee money, unlike many other U.S. Senate candidates.
“The money that corporations are allowed to put into our political system by funding campaigns and people running for the U.S. Senate makes it so far for those senators to solve these issues,” Kelly said. “To some extent, it is the one thing that’s responsible for a lot of the gridlock in Washington, D.C. And in my case, it’s not the case, I will not take a dollar in the cooperate PAC money.”
As Kelly is running for McCain’s old seat, he explained that McCain is someone he will always look up to. With both being Navy veterans, there is a close connection that Kelly remembers. Even though Kelly is running as a Democrat, he remembers McCain as a respectable bipartisan.
“I really respected John McCain for a lot of different things,” Kelly said. “He would work across the aisle when it really mattered. Take tough votes, maybe counter to what everybody else in his party was doing. Which I really respect.”
Kelly’s campaign is just beginning and even though it is his first time running for a political office, it has been everything he expected.
“It’s going really well and we’re working really hard, it’s a long way to November 2020, but we’re going to work really hard and we’re going to let the voters decide.”