Arizona’s Mark Kelly is sworn into Senate, filling Sen. John McCain’s seat

Politics

Mark Kelly, Arizona Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, removes his mask as he prepares to speak at an election night event Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020 in Tucson, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — Arizona Democrat and former astronaut Mark Kelly has been sworn into the Senate on Wednesday. Kelly, 56, defeated Republican Sen. Martha McSally in last month’s election.

By taking office, he has reduced Republican control in the chamber to 52-48. Kelly is taking office more than a month ahead of others who won November Senate races because it was a special election to finish the last two years of the term of John McCain, who died in 2018.

Kelly was sworn into office by Vice President Mike Pence, and both men wore masks and bumped arms in congratulations when the oath was over. Among those watching from the visitors’ gallery were his wife, former Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz., and Scott Kelly, his twin brother and fellow retired astronaut.

Kelly’s Arizona colleague, Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, held the Bible on which he took his oath. In what may be a Senate first for such ceremonies, Sinema, known for dramatic fashion, wore a zebra-striped coat and had purple hair, or perhaps a wig.

Kelly’s Senate arrival marks a political milestone for Arizona, which has two Democratic senators for the first time since January 1953. That is when GOP Sen. Barry Goldwater took office, barely a decade before he became his party’s unsuccessful 1964 presidential candidate.

Kelly flew combat missions for the Navy during Operation Desert Storm before becoming a test pilot and later an astronaut. He flew four missions to the International Space Station.

He is the husband of former Democratic U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head and wounded in an attempted assassination during a constituent event in Tucson in 2011. She and Kelly became leading figures in unsuccessful efforts to pressure Congress to strengthen gun controls.

“Great day, excellent day,” Giffords told reporters afterward.

With Kelly’s victory, the GOP Senate Majority will fall to 52 members. Control of the next Senate will come down to two runoff elections in Georgia. If Democrats win both, the Senate would be split 50-50, and incoming Vice President Kamala Harris would cast tie-breaking votes.

Arizona officials certified the state’s election results Monday, formalizing Democrat Joe Biden’s victory over President Donald Trump.

Biden is only the second Democrat in 70 years to win Arizona. In the final tally, Biden won by 10,457 votes, 0.3 percent of the nearly 3.4 million ballots cast. Eleven Democratic electors will meet Dec. 14 to formally pledge Arizona’s electoral votes to Biden.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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