Senate candidate Mark Kelly takes to airwaves with intro ad

Mark Kelly

Democratic Senate candidate Mark Kelly released his first campaign ad of the 2020 election on Thursday, looking to introduce himself to Arizona voters in the face of attack ads from his Republican rival.

Kelly's minute-long ad shows him wearing a black T-shirt and working on a motorcycle, and later laughing around a table with his family, including former U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords, who survived an assassination attempt.

“My parents didn’t have a lot of extra money. But you could comfortably raise a family on a middle-class income, and it doesn’t work so well today,” Kelly says in the ad. “Now, my hope for Arizona is that everybody has the conditions and an environment that allows anybody to accomplish anything they want, if they’re just willing to work hard at it.”

Kelly, a retired astronaut, says in the ad he wasn't the best student but managed to grow up to fly Navy jets and command the space shuttle.

His ads begin airing a week after Republican Sen. Martha McSally took to the airwaves with ads seeking to tie Kelly to left-wing Democrats. Kelly has positioned himself as a centrist with an independent mind in a state that has traditionally elected Republicans but has valued politicians willing to break with their party, such as the late Republican Sen. John McCain.

The ad wars are beginning unusually early and signal an expensive battle to come for Arizona's Senate seat, one of the most contested of the 2020 election and one that will help determine which party controls the U.S. Senate.

Earlier this week, the Arizona Democratic Party launched a coordinated organizing campaign to support Democrats up and down the ticket, from president to the state Legislature. The party said it was the earliest it has started the coordinated effort, a reflection of an Arizona electorate that is growing younger and more diverse. The effort started with an office each in Phoenix and Tucson, with plans for more around the state.

McSally got a jolt of support Wednesday from President Donald Trump, who said during a Phoenix rally in support of his own reelection that “Martha has my complete and total support and endorsement.”

“You know Martha’s tough on the border and she’s working with me to strengthen our military still further and lower your prescription drug prices and we’re making a lot of progress,” Trump said.

McSally and Trump both took shots at Kelly. McSally told Trump the Democrat would have voted to convict and remove him if he had been in the Senate for the presidential impeachment trial.

“And he said last week that he would support Bernie Sanders if he’s the nominee, and he's socialist,” McSally said, reiterating the message from her most recent ads attacking Kelly. “So Arizona is tired of investigations, they’re tired of obstruction, they don’t want socialism, they love our freedom.”

Republicans have pushed aggressively to tie Democrats to Sanders, who calls himself a democratic socialist, in hopes of driving away centrist voters. Vermont Sen. Sanders is an independent who is seeking the Democratic Party nomination for president.

Kelly said he would support the Democratic nominee for president no matter who wins the primary. But he said he's a capitalist and would act independently in Arizona's best interests.