Mark Kelly

Written by Mallory Kvek

Captain Mark Kelly is running in a special election for United States Senate representing Arizona.

The United States Congress is made up of the Senate, the upper chamber, and the House of Representatives, the lower chamber. Each state regardless of population is equally represented by two Senators who serve staggered six year terms. The Senate has many prestigious powers, such as approving treaties, the confirmation of Cabinet secretaries, Supreme Court Justices, federal judges, and conducting the trails of those impeached by the House, among other responsibilities. The Senate elects it’s own officials within the chamber, such as Majority/Minority Leader and Majority/Minority Whip, and is led by the Vice President of the United States. There are no term limits to United States Senators.

Mark Kelly lives in Tucson with his wife, former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. Mark has two daughters, Claire who has just graduated from Arizona State University, and his older daughter Claudia who lives in Tucson.

Mark and his wife, Gabby Giffords

Mark and his twin, Scott, are the sons of two retired police officers and grew up in West Orange, New Jersey. He attended public school up until he attended the United States Merchant Marine Academy, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in marine engineering, and later a Master of Science in aeronautical engineering from the United States Naval Postgraduate School.

Mark, his parents, and his twin brother Scott

In 1987, Mark became a naval aviator and was first assigned to Attack Squadron 115 in Atsugi, Japan. He then made two deployments to the Persian Gulf, flying 39 combat missions in Operation Desert Storm. In the early 90’s, Mark attended the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School, logging more than 5,000 hours, flying in 50 different aircrafts, and making over 375 career landings.

In 1996, both Mark and Scott joined the NASA Astronaut Corps as Space Shuttle pilots, logging in over 50 days in space. In 2001, Mark flew his first four missions into space aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour, which was also the same space shuttle he commanded on its final flight in May 2011. Mark lived on the International Space Station, has traveled over 15.78 million miles, and has orbited the Earth 606 times.

STS-108 Endeavour Commander Dominic L. Gorie and Pilot Mark Kelly during operations with the International Space Station

Mark and Gabby made Tucson their permanent home in 2012 after Mark’s retirement from NASA and the Navy, and Gabby resigned from Congress to focus on her rehabilitation and recovery. While serving as a U.S. Representative for Arizona Congressional District 8, Gabby was shot in an assassination attempt in January 2011. Eighteen others were shot, and tragically six people died. As the believed target for the shooting, Gabby was shot through the head at point-blank range, and her condition was initially described as critical. Several bystanders and victims worked together to subdue the shooter, including a 74 year old retired Army Colonel who had been shot himself. While waiting for help, Gabby’s intern Daniel Hernandez Jr. applied pressure to her gunshot wound, credited with saving her life.

In January 2013, in the wake of the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Mark and Gabby co-founded the organization Giffords. This organization is made up of three distinct entities, all working together to end gun violence in America partnering with veterans, law enforcement officials, gun owners, and faith leaders. When launching Giffords, Mark and Gabby “wanted to prove that it’s possible to stand up for the Second Amendment while also standing up for stronger gun laws that keep us safe.” Their mission is to “shift American gun culture through information and challenge the injustice of special interests risking individual safety all while changing U.S. policies to support safer gun laws.”

Activists with the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, rally outside of the United States Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. on Monday, Dec. 2, 2019 as the Court hears oral arguments in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc et al. v. City of New York case. The hearing is on the fourth anniversary of a mass shooting that killed 14 people in San Bernardino, California.

Mark is running for U.S. Senate because he believes Washington is broken, and Arizonans deserve a leader who is independent and is focused on the problems we face.

“When I’m traveling around Arizona with my wife Gabby Giffords, many of you come up to say hello. And a lot of you tell us your concerns and your ideas. What I’m struck by is that all of us, no matter what our political leanings or where in the state we come from — we’re all concerned about the same things: being able to afford health care for our families, providing our kids with the education and the opportunities they deserve, whether wages are going to keep up with increasing costs, if the Social Security and Medicare that you have paid into and earned are going to be there when you retire.

Washington isn’t addressing these big problems in a way that helps working people in Arizona. Partisanship keeps politicians from finding solutions, and all of the money in our political system keeps politicians from being accountable to the people they’re supposed to represent.

I never expected to be here. Gabby was always the member of Congress in the family, and the person who taught me everything I know about how to use policy to improve people’s lives. I bring a different set of experiences to the table than most in Washington. Seeing the challenges that we face as a state and a country, I know I can put these experiences to use to make a difference in the lives of people here in Arizona.” -Mark Kelly

Mark believes healthcare is a right and no one should be denied healthcare coverage based on a preexisting condition. He believes in a public health care option that would compete with private insurers, and more transparency for and oversight of hospital costs. He will take on the pharmaceutical industry to lower prescription drug costs, and take down those responsible for the opioid epidemic.

As a Navy combat veteran, it’s important to Mark that our country keeps its promises to our veterans and provide the care and benefits they have earned through their service. In Arizona, there nearly 900 homeless veterans and more than 200 veterans commit suicide every year. Mark understands we need veteran services to work for our changing veteran population, from aging and injured veterans to young veterans who need mental health care or are looking for help transferring their skills from service to a good paying job. There also needs to be an increase in accountability in the VA, both in Phoenix and Tucson. Every veteran has taken risks and made sacrifices, and Mark won’t rest until they receive what they’ve earned.

For many Arizona families, current job opportunities and wages are not keeping up with the rising costs of healthcare, prescription drugs, education, housing, and retirement, especially during a pandemic. Mark will be a champion for working Arizonans by ending the tax breaks for the super wealthy and big corporations that are not benefiting middle class Arizonans, as well as investing in things that will pay off for our country down the road, like infrastructure and research and development.

Mark will fight to ensure that America keeps it’s promise to Arizona seniors of Social Security and Medicare, many of which rely on Social Security as their only source of income. Mark opposes legislation weakening Social Security and Medicare.

Mark believes we need a strong, secure border and to fix our broken immigration system. This includes more investments in technology, well staffed ports of entry and border patrol agents at the border, and where effective, physical barriers and fencing. Improving programs like E-Verify will prevent big corporations from exploiting migrant labor and undercutting American wages. Some of Arizona’s ports of entry are literally crumbling, and desperately need infrastructure improvements, which will make border crossings more secure from drug and other types of trafficking, while improving the trade that creates jobs in Arizona. Mark also believes we can fix our broken immigration system, but in a way that is true to our values, provides for the workforce we need, and doesn’t separate children from their parents. Mark supports protecting DREAMers- including more than 25,500 Arizonans- who were brought here as children, have been educated here, and have played by the rules.

Mark knows that every goal we have- fixing our healthcare system, protecting our climate and our Earth, and growing our economy- starts with a great education for every American. We need to expand access to quality early childhood education for everyone, and have a K-12 education system that treats teachers like valued professionals, paying them a decent wage and giving them the tools they need to succeed. As teachers have already started standing up and demanding change in Arizona, Mark stands with them as they fight for higher pay and more funding for schools. Mark also supports ensuring all students have access to STEM classes and advanced placement classes. He believes we need to invest more in career training, apprenticeship programs and work to streamline professional certification. Arizona is home to three world class universities, and has a strong community college system. Mark is committed to making sure more students have access to great public higher education without the burden of crushing debt, starting with fully funding Pell Grants and other financial aid, and lowering interest rates on federal students loans.

As a Navy pilot, Mark swore an oath to defend the United States, serving under both Republican and Democrat Presidents. Mark will work across the aisle to ensure nothing stands in the way of keeping our military strong and our country safe. From Luke and Davis-Monthan Air Force Bases, to Yuma and Fort Huachuca, Arizona plays a critical role in our national security strategy and the federal investment in our military assets plays a critical role in Arizona’s economy. Mark is committed to protecting these bases and their place in America’s national security strategy. Mark will work with our allies and partners to tackle our shared threats. He will ensure that the United States remains a global leader and that our allies know that they can continue to trust us. Mark is committed to rebuilding our traditional alliances and restoring American leadership in the world.

From his mom, one of the first women to become a police officer in West Orange, New Jersey, to his wife, former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, to his two daughters, Claudia and Claire, Mark is surrounded by strong women who’ve fought for equality and opportunity. He supports the kinds of policies that empower women to achieve great things, plan and support their families while thriving in the workplace, and give women the opportunity to fight for themselves, in the workplace and beyond. Mark supports every woman’s right to choose how and when to start her family, as well as in a decent paid family leave policy for women and their children. He will reject efforts that make it harder for women to access vital health care services, whether it be reproductive care for themselves or programs like CHIP and WIC that help women and children stay healthy. Mark knows that if we remove barriers to women’s success, our economy will benefit.

Mark is a gun owner and an advocate for commonsense gun laws. Every year, Arizona sees an average of 244 gun homicides, 669 firearms suicides, 582 nonfatal shootings, and 553 accidental shootings. As well as his work with co-founding Giffords, Mark will stand up to the gun lobby and fight to protect Arizona children and communities from gun violence. He will keep Arizonans safer by working to pass universal background checks, keeping guns out of the hands of stalkers and domestic abusers, and reduce mass shootings and suicides by allowing families and law enforcement to ensure dangerous individuals and those in crisis don’t have access to firearms.

Climate change poses a threat to Arizona’s economy and way of life. Warming climate trends mean an increase in days over 100 degrees, which effects Arizona’s economy. Longer and more severe droughts will also restrict Arizona’s access to clean water, and pose increased public health risks. Mark believes we need to make massive investments into research and development of renewable energy technologies, creating more jobs in Arizona and accelerating the transition to a renewable economy.

If you’d like to learn more about Mark Kelly, donate to his campaign and volunteer in his Mission for Arizona, please visit his Homepage, Mission for Arizona, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Sources:
Mark Kelly Campaign, Giffords, Wikipedia: Gabby Giffords, Mark Kelly, and United States Senate.