Unelected GOP senator will have to face accomplished astronaut in 2020


Voters will have at least one strong alternative to unelected GOP Sen. Martha McSally in Arizona in 2020.

Arizona voters will have another chance to reject Martha McSally in 2020, when the unelected Republican is up for re-election in the late John McCain's Senate seat that she was appointed to fill.

And now voters know definitively who one of their options at the ballot box will be, after Democrat Mark Kelly announced his candidacy in a moving four-and-a-half-minute-long video posted to his Twitter account Tuesday morning.

In his announcement, Kelly plays up his military service and time as an astronaut — but explains that his role caring for his wife, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, after she was shot in the head in a failed assassination attempt, is what spurred him to run for Senate.

"I learned a lot from being an astronaut. I learned a lot from being a pilot in the Navy. I learned a lot about solving problems from being an engineer,"  Kelly says in his announcement video, seated next to his wife. "But what I learned from my wife is how you use policy to improve people's lives."

Kelly's positive video makes no mention of McSally or Trump. It focuses on issues he wants to tackle, such as health care, stagnant wages, jobs and the economy, and climate change.

But McSally and her far-right views will obviously be a major issue in this race.

While McSally is up for re-election in 2020, she never actually won her Senate seat.

Voters rejected her candidacy in 2018, when she lost the open-seat Senate race to replace now-retired Sen. Jeff Flake to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema. And she only ascended to the Senate because GOP Gov. Doug Ducey ignored the will of Arizona voters and appointed McSally to serve in the Senate until a special election could be held to replace McCain.

Given that Kelly talks about health care as a major topic he wants to tackle as a Senator, McSally will again have to face her vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with a GOP alternative that would have stripped health care from more than 20 million Americans.

Other Democrats may well run for this seat as well, including Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego, who told Politico in December that he is leaning toward running.

But election analysts at the non-partisan political handicapping outlet Inside Elections already rate McSally's re-election a toss-up contest. And that rating may shift toward Democrats as voters remember why they rebuffed McSally's first attempt at the Senate. 

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.