Five Senate races to watch: Mark Kelly vs Blake Masters in Arizona

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Astronaut Mark Kelly is seeking to stave off a challenge from an election-denying right-wing candidate backed by Donald Trump and bankrolled by controversial billionaire Peter Thiel.

Mark Kelly took office in December 2020 after Arizonans voting in a special election chose him to fill the seat vacated by John McCain upon his death.

The son of two police officers, Kelly has said his mom’s career as one of the first female officers in their New Jersey town inspired him to be bold when facing challenges on the way to reaching his goals.

He received a bachelor’s degree from the US Merchant Marine Academy before becoming a US Navy pilot along with his twin brother Scott. Kelly flew 39 combat missions in the 1991 Persian Gulf War and went on to earn a master’s degree from the Naval Postgraduate School.

Both Mark and Scott were selected to become NASA astronauts in 1996. Kelly made four trips to space starting in December 2001, delivering crew and equipment to the International Space Station. He retired in 2011 after commanding one of the final flights of the Space Shuttle Endeavour.

Kelly, 58, is married to Gabby Giffords, a former member of Congress who was wounded along with several others in a 2011 shooting rampage that left six people dead. Kelly and Giffords moved back to Tucson shortly after the attack and have since been outspoken proponents of gun control legislation.

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