Gabby Giffords' astronaut husband Mark Kelly to run for US Senate eight years after shooting

12 February 2019, 15:50 | Updated: 12 February 2019, 16:53

The husband of former US congresswoman Gabby Giffords will run for the US Senate eight years after she survived a shooting.

Mark Kelly, a retired astronaut, has announced that he will run for the Arizona seat held by Republican stalwart John McCain until his death last year from brain cancer.

Mr Kelly, 54, is one of the top Democratic options to take on Republican Martha McSally, appointed to fill Mr McCain's seat last year, in one of the most closely contested Senate races of the 2020 election.

Mr Kelly became a prominent gun-control advocate after his wife was shot in a failed assassination attempt in Tucson, Arizona, in 2011.

She was shot in the head and left with a brain injury by Jared Lee Loughner, who had become fixated with her.

Six died in the attack and Loughner was later jailed for life.

Ms Giffords resigned a few months later and in 2013 she and Mr Kelly started Americans for Responsible Solutions to promote gun-control legislation.

Mr Kelly, whose twin Scott was also an astronaut, flew his first NASA mission in 2001 and took part in four more, including the final mission of Space Shuttle Endeavour.

He is also a former US Navy Captain who flew during the Gulf War.

If he is chosen as the Democrats' pick, he will be up against Ms McSally who was the first woman to fly a combat mission as a fighter pilot.

The winner would have to run again for a full six-year term in 2022, as the 2020 election will only decide who finishes Mr McCain's final two years.

Mr McCain was a legendary Navy flyer who was famously shot down and held captive during the Vietnam War.

The Arizona seat has been Republican for a long time but with a growing Latino population and frustration among women with Donald Trump, the seat is a top target for Democrats.