Democrat Mark Kelly of Arizona was sworn in Wednesday as the newest member of the Senate, bringing the GOP majority down to 52-48.
Kelly, a former astronaut and U.S. Navy Captain, beat GOP Sen. Martha McSally in a special election this November. While Kelly has never held public office before, he was widely viewed as a star recruit for the Democratic party this election cycle and is married to former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.), who is now an advocate for stricter gun laws after surviving a 2011 assassination attempt.
The Arizona Democrat’s arrival to the Senate during the lame duck session comes as Senate Republicans are aiming to confirm a series of executive and judicial branch appointees who will outlast President Donald Trump. Republicans’ slightly smaller majority leaves them little room for error on any potential controversial nominees and Kelly’s arrival to the Senate essentially kills Judy Shelton’s nomination to the Federal Reserve.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) welcomed Kelly to the Senate ahead of his swearing in.
“It may not be the role he expected for himself earlier in his life,” Schumer said. “As Mark likes to say, his wife Gabby was already the member of the family in Congress. But tragedy upended both of their lives, and changed so many of their plans. Everyone continues to be inspired by Gabby’s recovery, by Mark’s devotion, and the courage it took for their family to reenter public life and public service.”
Kelly will serve the remainder of the late GOP Sen. John McCain’s final two years, and immediately run again for re-election in 2022. Throughout his Senate campaign against McSally, Kelly proved himself to be a prolific fundraiser.
Kelly’s swearing in marks the first time in nearly 70 years that Arizona will have two Democratic senators, a sign of the state’s newfound status as a battleground. He will join Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who beat McSally in 2018. Both Kelly and Sinema ran as moderates during their campaign.