Skip to Content

KYMA.com Exclusive: A conversation with Mark Kelly

Screen Shot 2020-11-29 at 11.00.06 AM

Arizona's new Senator-elect discusses transition, compromise and coronavirus

YUMA, Ariz. (KYMA, KECY) - It's been nearly 70-years since two Democrats represented Arizona in the U.S. Senate at the same time. That will change later this week, when Mark Kelly takes the oath of office and begins filling the remainder of the late Sen. John McCain's term.

Kelly won the seat by claiming more than 50% of the votes cast in the November 3rd Special Election. He'll take the oath of office within days of the state's official vote certification. Certification is scheduled for Monday, November 30th, which means, Kelly could be on the job as soon as Tuesday or Wednesday.

Talking Transition

The timeline speeds up the transition process considerably. Other newly-elected Senators have until January 3rd, 2021 to get their Washington, D.C. offices organized and up and running.

“It’s less time to come up with a plan to staff the office, and have a Senate office up and running, it’s about half the time, but I knew that going into it.  We’ve been prepared all along, we knew that was the timeline.” said Kelly.

Kelly wasted no time assembling a topnotch team to help him meet the challenge.

“This is a bipartisan group from different professional backgrounds who have been very helpful." he said.

His co-chairs include, Democrat Luis Heredia, a Somerton-native who currently serves at the Arizona Education Association's Executive Director, and Republican Sharon Harper, a real estate professional who worked on Sen. McCain's 2000 and 2008 presidential campaigns.

Congressional compromise

Kelly plans to take a bipartisan approach to conducting business in the Senate as well.

"It’s been very  divisive and polarized and partisan, and I’m hoping what we’ve experienced over the past few years is the high mark, and it’s going to get better from here." he said.

"I’m optimistic that it can get better." he continued. "I’ve been reaching out to not only my future Democratic colleagues, but the Republicans as well to talk to them about finding some common ground, and they’re optimistic as well."

Kelly believes compromise and cooperation are the key to dealing with the issues America faces as it heads into a new year.

"I don’t think one party, not the Democrats or the Republicans, can solve these problems, because they’re hard problems to solve..."

We’re only going to solve these problems if we’re willing to work together as a team." he said. "I don’t think one party, not the Democrats or the Republicans, can solve these problems, because they’re hard problems to solve.  But, if we work together, and we’re committed to doing it, there’s nothing that we can’t fix."

Combatting coronavirus

The Senator-elect puts the coronavirus pandemic at the top of his priority list. He's concerned with stopping both the spread of the virus, and the spread of economic hardship that comes with it.

“We’re in a crisis. We have 400,000 Arizonans who are trying to survive on $240 a week on unemployment benefits." Kelly said.

He feels its time Congress did more to care for its constituents.

"The Senate pretty much checked out on them.  They went on vacation a number of times..."

"The Senate pretty much checked out on them.  They went on vacation a number of times.  They can’t find a bipartisan solution.  We need compromise, there are families that are struggling.” he told us.

Kelly said he and wife, former U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords, recently witnessed the toll the virus is taking on people in communities across Arizona.

"This is a crisis.  The United States Senate has a moral and legal obligation with this issue, they’re not addressing it."

“Gabby and I were just at the Southern Arizona Community Food Bank…2,500 cars today will receive food from the food bank. This is a crisis.  The United States Senate has a moral and legal obligation with this issue, they’re not addressing it." he shared.

Kelly said the time for action is now.

“We have the holidays coming up, if we don’t do something, with rising infection rates and the combination of unemployment, for some families it’s going to be a tough holiday season.” he said.

The Senator-elect admits, we have limited options for slowing the spread of the virus.

“There are not a lot of things our toolbox. There are not a lot of ways to deal with this.  It’s community-spread. So what can we do to mitigate the problem?"

Kelly says the answer is simple - wear a mask.

"We can strongly encourage, and even require people to wear a mask anytime they’re in public, especially when they’re in public indoors.  I strongly believe that should be a statewide requirement.” he said.

"The tools we have are wearing a mask, social distancing and washing our hands.  It’s important that we, as leaders, reinforce that message over and over again."

Prior to running for Congress, Kelly was a Navy fighter pilot, a test pilot, and a NASA astronaut. He led four missions as a space shuttle commander.

Kelly becomes just the fourth former astronaut elected to Congress. That prestigious list includes the late Sen. John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth, former U.S. Representative John "Jack" Swaggart, who flew on Apollo 13, and former Sen. Harrison "Jack" Schmitt, who was part of the Apollo 17 crew.

Article Topic Follows: Arizona Politics
Author Profile Photo

Lisa Sturgis

Lisa Sturgis Lisa got her first job in TV news at KYMA in 1987.

BE PART OF THE CONVERSATION

KYMA KECY is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content