Mark Kelly checks several boxes that make him a top recruit for Senate Democrats beyond his marriage to Gabby Giffords, who was on track for a Senate bid of her own in Arizona before being shot at a constituent event eight years ago.
The veteran and retired astronaut can credibly run as an outsider, while starting the campaign with the kind of name ID few non-politicians enjoy.
Republicans can criticize him over his gun control advocacy through the Giffords PAC, which could be a liability in a state with libertarian roots that supported President Trump by 4 points in 2016. He’ll also be tied to national Democrats by Republicans who cite the party’s push left ahead of the 2020 presidential election.
Otherwise Kelly’s lack of a voting record makes him largely a blank slate, and, while he could face a primary, his candidacy ensures the Republican-held seat is not only in play but also one of the party's very best pickup opportunities.
Winning the special election would signify quite a turn for Arizona, which, before Kyrsten Sinema defeated Martha McSally in November, hadn't elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1988.
-- Kyle Trygstad