Astronaut Mark Kelly announces "next mission": Running for U.S. Senate

By Emily Tillett

/ CBS News

Astronaut Mark Kelly is setting his eyes on a new frontier: the United States Senate. In a four-minute-long video released Tuesday morning, Kelly announced that he'll be running for Arizona's Senate seat formerly occupied by the late Sen. John McCain.

"I care about people, I care about the state of Arizona, I care about this nation so because of that, I've decided that I'm launching a campaign for the United States Senate," said Kelly, a Democrat, in the campaign video posted on Twitter.

My next mission… #FullSpeedAhead #ForArizona pic.twitter.com/5E36z7aztH

— Mark Kelly (@ShuttleCDRKelly) February 12, 2019

The Navy combat veteran and retired NASA astronaut pushed the message of "teamwork" in his campaign roll-out. "Partisanship and polarization and gerrymandering and corporate money have ruined our politics and it's divided us," he said.

"We're going to need to bring people together from all parts of the state and all walks of life. So please join us, damn the torpedoes full speed ahead!"

CBS News' Ed O'Keefe reports that Kelly's run was long expected and he isn't expected to be the only Democrat in the race. Among others, Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Arizona, a former Marine who represents most of Phoenix, is also expected to run.

Kelly, seated beside his wife, former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, also reflects in the video on his wife's harrowing recovery from being shot in the head during a public event in Tucson in 2011.

"I learned a lot from being an astronaut, I earned a lot from being a pilot in the Navy. I learned a lot about solving problems from being an engineer but what I learned from my wife is how you use policy to improve peoples lives," said Kelly in the video.

In the wake of the shooting, she and her husband founded an organization now known as Giffords, which is dedicated to reforming gun laws and preventing gun violence. Kelly has since become an outspoken advocate against gun-related tragedies, speaking out after mass shooting events and charging members of Congress to do more to stop further acts of gun violence.

"All we're hearing is thoughts and prayers. Thoughts and prayers are important," said Kelly after the deadly mass shooting in Las Vegas in 2017. "They are not enough. Your thoughts and prayers aren't going to stop the next shooting."

The Senate seat is currently held by Arizona Republican Martha McSally, a former congresswoman who was appointed to finish the remainder of McCain's term. McSally lost a race for the state's other Senate seat in November to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema.

McSally will now have to run to keep the seat in the next congressional election in 2020 and again in 2022.

First published on February 12, 2019

© 2019 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Emily Tillett

Emily Tillett is a politics reporter and video editor for CBS News Digital

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