WASHINGTON – Astronaut Mark Kelly said Friday he will not run for an open U.S. Senate seat from Arizona but will focus instead on the recovery of his wife, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
Kelly, speaking at an unrelated event in Washington, volunteered the response to persistent speculation about his political future that has come since he announced his retirement last month from NASA and the Navy.
“In all seriousness, my main focus for now and for the foreseeable future is Gabby’s recovery and spending more time with my kids,” Kelly said. “She’s the politician in the family and I’m the space guy — I see no reason to change that now.”
Giffords, a Democrat from Tucson, was shot January outside a Tucson grocery store at a public event at which six people were killed and 13 others wounded. She spent months recuperating at a hospital in Houston and was released two weeks ago.
She has since moved to Kelly’s home near Houston, where she is continuing her therapy on an outpatient basis.
Before the shooting, Giffords was considered a leading Democratic contender for the seat that will open up when Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., steps down in 2012.
A number of published reports in June mentioned Kelly as a possible stand-in for his wife in the Senate race. Those reports appeared to be based largely on Kelly’s comment at the end of his page-long Facebook retirement note: “After some time off, I will look at new opportunities and am hopeful that one day I will again serve our country.”
At a National Press Club event Friday to discuss the future of NASA exploration, Kelly prefaced his response to the rumors by joking that it “must be a really slow summer.” He then assured the crowd that his main focus is his wife’s health.
An Arizona Democratic Party official declined to comment on the political speculation surrounding the Senate race, instead extending support to Giffords on her road toward recovery.
“Nobody knows what Gabby will decide to do,” about the Senate race, said party spokeswoman Jennifer Johnson. “That’s as it should be.
“Gabby should be fully focused on her recovery,” Johnson said.