PHOENIX (AP) — Retired astronaut Mark Kelly, who became a prominent gun-control advocate after his wife, former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, was shot in a failed assassination attempt, announced Tuesday he will run to finish John McCain’s last term in the U.S. Senate.
The Democrat will take on Republican Martha McSally in what is expected to be one of the most closely contested Senate races of the 2020 election.
Kelly described himself as an independent-minded centrist who will take a scientist’s data-driven approach to solving problems such as climate change, wage stagnation and health care affordability.
“You see a lot of partisanship in Washington and a lot of polarization, and to some extent we’ve created that,” Kelly told The Associated Press. “It’s going to take people who are more independent to fix it. Arizonans value independence.”
If Kelly is nominated the race would pit the Navy veteran and astronaut against McSally, a trailblazing Air Force pilot, in the contest to replace McCain, a legendary Navy flyer who was famously shot down and held captive in North Vietnam.
McSally is a former Republican congresswoman who was appointed to McCain’s seat after she narrowly lost to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema last November in the race for outgoing Republican Jeff Flake’s seat. McSally leaned heavily on her record as the first woman to fly a combat mission, but she was hurt by her embrace of President Donald Trump.
The 2020 election will decide who finishes the last two years of McCain’s term. The winner would have to run again for a full six-year term in 2022.
Democrats are eagerly watching the Arizona contest, having already defeated McSally. The party is also gauging whether Arizona could be competitive at the presidential level in 2020, where Trump won in 2016.
Kelly has never held elected office. He flew combat missions during the first Gulf War before becoming an astronaut along with his twin brother, Scott Kelly. He flew four space missions over 10 years and commanded the Space Shuttle Endeavor in 2011.
Kelly and Giffords have pushed Congress to enact gun control measures with little success. They shifted their focus to state legislatures in recent years, helping to strengthen background checks and domestic violence protections.
Giffords was severely wounded in a mass shooting on Jan. 8, 2011. The shooting at a Giffords meet-and-greet event in Tucson left six dead and 13 injured.
Giffords played a prominent role in the four-minute video Tuesday launching Kelly’s campaign.
“I thought then that I had the risky job,” Kelly says to Giffords. “Turned out, you were the one that had the risky job.”
Kelly told the AP Giffords, who has been a rising Democratic star before the shooting, will join him frequently during campaign appearances.
Republican Gov. Doug Ducey appointed McSally to the vacant Senate seat after his first appointee, former Sen. Jon Kyl, resigned after only a few months in office.
Arizona has been a longstanding Republican stronghold, but a growing Latino population and frustration among women with Trump have helped Democrats make inroads.
U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego of Phoenix is also considering a Senate run that would likely position him to Kelly’s left politically.
“I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m looking seriously at running for the U.S. Senate in 2020, and that hasn’t changed,” Gallego said on Twitter following Kelly’s announcement. “I’ll be making a final decision and announcement soon.”
Former Attorney General Grant Woods, a lifelong Republican who became a Democrat and a fierce critic of Trump, said last week he will not run for the seat.
McCain, a legendary and beloved Arizona politician, died last year from an aggressive form of brain cancer after more than three decades in the Senate.
Former Vice President Joe Biden Set To Announce 2020 Bid For Presidency On Thursday
(CNN) — Joe Biden will announce his presidential bid on Thursday with an online video, sources familiar with the plans confirm to CNN, finally answering one of the lingering questions hanging over the 2020 Democratic race.
The former vice president’s team has been laying the campaign groundwork for months, with Biden’s decision growing less secretive or suspenseful by the day. But now that he has given the green light to his advisers, Biden is facing one of the biggest challenges of his half-century career in politics.
He is scheduled to hold his first campaign event in Pittsburgh on Monday, a source said, and plans to hit the road to the early-voting states of Iowa, South Carolina and New Hampshire in the coming days.
His political action committee, American Possibilities, sent an email to supporters on Tuesday to urge them to sign up for the news.
“We’ll cut to the chase,” the message said. “There has been a lot of chatter about what Joe Biden plans to do. As one of Joe’s top supporters, we want you to be the first to know!”
He is jumping into a race already in progress, likely becoming the 20th Democrat to declare candidacy. He’s closely watched the campaign from the sidelines, aides said, following the policy debates and the introduction of rising stars less than half his age.
This will mark his third run for the White House. But everything is different this time around, as he runs as a popular former vice president to Barack Obama. It’s a far loftier post than running as a Democratic senator from Delaware, which he unsuccessfully did in the 1988 and 2008 campaigns.
Biden, 76, would be the second oldest candidate in the race, with the longest record of public service. Only Bernie Sanders, 77, is older.
Biden is hoping to seize command of the highly-fluid contest through major endorsements in hopes of highlighting how the party’s most urgent task should be defeating President Donald Trump, Democrats familiar with his plans tell CNN.
Yet before he can face Trump, Biden faces a Democratic Party far different than the last time his name was on a ballot. Progressive issues are front-and-center, rather than foreign policy, which was a hallmark of his nearly four decades in the Senate.
One lingering question for Biden is his ability to fundraise, particularly on the small dollar, grassroots level. Sanders and other candidates have relied on massive online support to churn out impressive fundraising figures.
Biden To Launch Presidential Campaign Next Week
WASHINGTON (AP) — Former Vice President Joe Biden is expected to join the crowded 2020 Democratic presidential race next week.
The decision answers one of the most significant outstanding questions of the early presidential primary season, which has already seen announcements from 18 high-profile Democrats. Biden, 76, would be the oldest and most experienced politician in the race.
His plans were confirmed by three people with knowledge, who insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly. The announcement is expected as early as Wednesday and would cap months of deliberation over his political future.
The specific launch date and location is unclear. Biden is likely to quickly make visits to early-voting states.
One person said Biden’s advisers are also considering an early event in Charlottesville, Virginia, the site of a deadly clash between white supremacists and counterprotesters in 2017. The location would be intended to draw a contrast between Biden and President Donald Trump, who initially said there were some “very fine people on both sides” of the violent confrontation.
Biden has been particularly outspoken against the rise of white supremacy in the Trump era.
One of the most recognizable names in U.S. politics, Biden served as Barack Obama’s two-term vice president after nearly four decades as a Delaware senator. His high-profile, working-class background and connection to the Obama years would help him enter the race as a front-runner, although he faces questions about his age and whether his more moderate record fits with a party that has become more liberal.
With a record in elected office that stretches half a century, Biden faces multiple challenges.
Last month he struggled to respond to claims he touched 2014 Nevada lieutenant governor nominee Lucy Flores’ shoulders and kissed the back of her head before a campaign event. A few other women have made similar claims, though none has alleged sexual misconduct.
The incident is just a taste of the harsh vetting from both parties expected for Biden, who has run for president twice before but never from such a strong political starting point.
His first White House bid in 1988 ended after a plagiarism scandal. And in recent weeks, he was repeatedly forced to explain his 1991 decision, as Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, to allow Anita Hill to face questions about her allegations of sexual harassment against Clarence Thomas, then a nominee for the Supreme Court.
Biden has since apologized for his role in the hearing. But in the #MeToo era, it’s another example of why critics believe he may struggle to catch on with the Democratic primary voters of 2020.
On paper, however, he may be well positioned to take on Trump in a general election.
The Republican president’s allies have privately warned that Biden might be the biggest threat to Trump’s re-election given Biden’s potential appeal among the white-working class in the Midwest, the same region that allowed Trump to win the presidency.
Weld Announces He’s Challenging Trump for 2020 Republican Nomination
Boston (AP) — William Weld, a former governor of Massachusetts who two years ago ran for vice president on the Libertarian Party ticket, on Monday became the first Republican to challenge President Donald Trump in the 2020 primaries.
Weld, 73, said in announcing his candidacy that “it is time to return to the principles of Lincoln — equality, dignity and opportunity for all.” He said, “There is no greater cause on earth than to preserve what truly makes America great. I am ready to lead that fight.”
Weld has accused Trump of leaving the nation in “grave peril” and has said his “priorities are skewed toward promotion of himself rather than for the good of the country.” While Trump’s overall approval ratings have been poor for much of his presidency, he remains popular with Republican voters. The Republican National Committee in January issued a nonbinding resolution to declare the party’s undivided support for Trump.
The move by Weld makes Trump the first incumbent president since George H.W. Bush in 1992 to face a notable primary challenge.
Fiscally conservative but socially liberal, Weld is known for an unconventional, at times quirky, political style and a long history of friction with the party he now seeks to lead.
Weld endorsed Democrat Barack Obama over Republican nominee John McCain in 2008, later saying it was a mistake to do so, and has enjoyed a decadeslong friendship with the Clintons, which began early in his career when he served alongside Hillary Clinton as a lawyer for the House Judiciary Committee during the Watergate proceedings.
Weld’s nomination by President Bill Clinton to be U.S. ambassador to Mexico touched off a bitter public spat with then-Sen. Jesse Helms, a conservative Republican from South Carolina who chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Years earlier, Weld was among a handful of top Justice Department officials to resign in protest over alleged ethical violations by then-Attorney General Ed Meese, long a favorite of conservatives.
With little in the way of organization or outside money, and at odds with a majority of GOP voters who solidly support Trump, Weld’s longshot campaign will target disaffected Republicans and independents who share his disdain for the president and embrace libertarian values of small government, free trade and free markets, and personal freedom.
Alternately a politician, federal prosecutor, investment banker, lobbyist and even novelist — his political mystery called “Mackerel by Moonlight” was published to mixed reviews in 1998 — the Harvard-educated scion of a prominent Boston family was a lifelong Republican before bolting the GOP to run on the Libertarian Party ticket with former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson in 2016.
Johnson and Weld received about 4.5 million votes, a little more than 3 percent of the national popular vote.
Despite a pledge to libertarians that he would remain loyal to the party going forward, Weld on Jan. 17 walked into the clerk’s office of the Massachusetts town where he lives and re-registered with the GOP, adding to speculation that he would challenge Trump in the primaries.
Weld has not won a political race since being re-elected governor by a landslide in his heavily Democratic state in 1994. He was first elected to the office in 1990, defeating a conservative Democratic candidate, and quickly became one of Massachusetts’ most popular governors in recent history.
While holding the line on spending and taxes, Weld as governor embraced liberal positions at odds with national Republicans on abortion and gay rights. His low-key style and sharp wit also seemed to play well with voters as did his penchant for the unexpected: He once ended a news conference touting progress in cleaning up Boston’s polluted Charles River by diving fully clothed into the waterway.
After winning a second term, Weld’s attention appeared to drift away from the governor’s office and toward other political pursuits. He briefly entertained a run for president in 1996 before mounting an unsuccessful campaign that year to unseat Democratic Sen. John Kerry.
He resigned as governor the following year after Clinton nominated him to be ambassador to Mexico, but it was a post he would never hold. Helms dug in his heels and refused to schedule a hearing on the nomination, claiming among other things that Weld’s support for medical marijuana and needle exchange programs for drug users disqualified him from serving in Mexico because of that country’s history of drug trafficking.
Weld fired back at Helms, suggesting it was un-American for Helms to refuse to hold a public hearing on a high-profile ambassadorial nomination.
Weld left the public arena but later moved to New York, where he would make a brief, unsuccessful bid to become the first person since Sam Houston to serve as governor of two different states.
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