Meet Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly, A Vulnerable Democrat In The 2022 Battle Over The Senate
Senator Mark Kelly, a Democrat from Arizona, speaks during a news conference following the weekly Democratic caucus luncheon at the US Capitol in Washington, D.C., US, on Tuesday, July 26, 2022. The Senate delayed a procedural vote on a bill to boost the US domestic semiconductor industry after flight disruptions caused by storms on the East Coast prevented some senators from returning to Washington on Monday. Photographer: Eric Lee/Bloomberg
Eric Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sen. Mark Kelly (D-AZ) is under pressure to hold his Senate seat in a political climate unfavorable to Democrats amid soaring inflation under a historically unpopular Democratic president.

Kelly won his bid to represent Arizona in the U.S. Senate in a 2020 special election, knocking off Republican incumbent Martha McSally, whom Governor Doug Ducey (R-AZ) appointed to fill the seat once held by the late Sen. John McCain. The 2022 midterm election will make or break Kelly’s chance to serve his first full term as a U.S. senator.

Kelly is running as a moderate dealmaker, touting analyses that rank him as one of the Senate’s most bipartisan members based on a range of factors, but typically on the number of GOP-sponsored bills he cosigns and how many Republicans he can persuade into sponsoring his own legislation. Republicans are quick to point out that Kelly has voted with President Joe Biden 94% of the time.

Mark Kelly And His Pledge Against “Corporate PACs”

Kelly has violated his pledge to not “take a dime of corporate PAC money,” according to The Daily Caller News Foundation. While Kelly may not have accepted a direct contribution from a corporate PAC, he has taken in tens of thousands of dollars from Democratic PACs backed by corporations.

A July review of Kelly’s Federal Election Commission filings by The DCNF revealed that the senator had accepted more than $150,000 from corporate-backed Democratic PACs since March 2019. A PAC associated with Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has donated $20,000 to Kelly’s campaign. That same committee, Green Mountain PAC, has raised nearly $250,000 since 2005 from corporate PACs for Google, Pfizer, AT&T, General Dynamics, and Northrop Grumman, filings reveal.

Kelly has continued to claim his independence from “corporate PAC money,” vowing on his website: “This campaign is about the people of Arizona, not corporate PACs and the mess they’ve created in Washington. I won’t take a dime of corporate PAC money, and I’ll only answer to Arizonans.”

Gun Rights

Kelly has been quiet in the gun rights debate since taking office. He has taken a backseat in recent legislative haggling over new federal gun control measures, choosing to cosponsor legislation rather than help craft it.

Kelly’s wife, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, was the victim of a shooting in 2011 in which a gunman shot her in the face. In the aftermath, Giffords resigned from Congress and, along with her husband, launched a gun control advocacy group that eventually resulted in the Giffords Law Center, an organization that advocates for stricter gun control measures and engages in legal battles to implement them. Giffords and Kelly were both vocal supporters of gun control measures in the years following.

In a 2017 interview with Politico, before Kelly ran for office, he expressed doubt that he could be an “effective” advocate for gun control policy.

“I feel that Gabby and I and our organization, Americans for Responsible Solutions, has been incredibly effective on this issue, moving the country in the right direction on this,” he responded when asked about a potential run for Arizona governor. “I don’t know if I could necessarily be as effective on this on the inside.”

A glance at Kelly’s campaign website seems to support his conclusion. Despite Kelly’s past support for gun control measures such as red-flag laws or a ban on so-called assault weapons, his website lacks any substance related to firearms policy or the Second Amendment. Under his listed “priorities,” gun rights are not even mentioned.

He has been relatively silent on the campaign trail except to make vague statements after tragedies such as the shooting in Buffalo, New York, or Uvalde, Texas. Kelly has essentially let his past activism speak for itself and avoided getting into debates over what U.S. gun policy should be.

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