(WASHINGTON) — One of the more dramatic moments of President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night was when he said over and over that victims of gun violence “deserve a vote” to thunderous applause.
“Gabby Giffords deserves a vote,” the president said as the camera panned to the former Arizona congresswoman, who is spearheading a new gun control push focused on universal background checks.
The man by her side Tuesday night, Giffords’ husband Mark Kelly, is her partner in the gun control fight, but now in Arizona the former astronaut is also being seen as a possible new star who could inherit his wife’s political career.
Jeff Rogers, a friend of Giffords and Kelly and former chair of the Pima County Democratic Party, told ABC News that Kelly would be “an ideal candidate to take on John McCain’s position in 2016.”
McCain, who along with Giffords’ successor Ron Barber (D-Ariz.), gave Kelly and Giffords his visitor pass for the State of the Union speech, will be 80 when he is up for reelection in 2016.
“There are few other people that would be such a formidable candidate,” Rogers said, noting that Kelly would also have his wife’s political skills as an asset. “His wife has the greatest political mind in a generation in this state. Her smarts and his background and both of their courage coming out in this issue (of gun control)…I think it speaks well of them, putting themselves out there for sane reform of much needed reform of gun laws.”
Rogers added that Kelly has been “putting himself out there a lot not just after the Connecticut massacre, but before then,” and that he’s been a public face in Tucson, Ariz., since the couple moved back in August. These moves make Rogers think it’s possible Kelly “would be interested in pursuing such a thing.”
“I think the Senate is the most logical place for him,” Rogers said.
Kelly, 48, has said that he is not interested in becoming a politician.
“She’s the politician in the family, I’m the space guy,” he said in July 2011.
An aide said that Kelly is fully focused on his wife’s recovery and running the newly created SuperPAC to push gun control measures called Americans for Responsible Solutions.
The PAC has released its first ad, in which Giffords tells the nation to “take it from me, Congress must act. Let’s get this done.”
The ad is targeting congressional lawmakers with an ad buy that reaches the districts of House Speaker John Boehner, House Minority Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
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