Mark Kelly is a former astronaut and current candidate for Senate in Arizona. He is also the husband of former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords, who was shot in the head in an assassination attempt in 2011. As such, Kelly’s campaign has a rather strong platform on reducing gun violence, something the Arizona GOP is milking for all it’s worth in the most disgusting way possible.
As Bloomberg reported today, Kelli Ward, the chairman of the state’s Republican Party, wrote in a fundraising email: “Support the Republican Party of Arizona today and, together, we’ll stop gun-grabber Mark Kelly dead in his tracks.”
Kelly is running against Martha McSally, the Arizona senator who lost to Kirsten Sinema but failed upward by getting appointed to the seat after John McCain died. Kelly is also the co-founder (with his wife) of Giffords, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization focused on reducing gun violence.
For some context, Arizona has some of the loosest gun laws in the country. Jared Lee Loughner, the perpetrator of the 2011 shooting that left six dead and 18 injured, including Giffords, legally purchased his 9mm Glock 19. The 33-round extended magazine he used is also legal in Arizona, which has no laws governing magazine capacity. Kelly’s campaign for increased gun reform will be an uphill battle, but Sinema’s narrow victory in 2018 over McSally means the seat is definitely within the Democrats’ reach—something the AZ GOP is clearly aware of, given the level they’re clearly willing to sink to to win.
Representatives for Kelly’s campaign, Giffords (the organization), and the Arizona GOP did not immediately respond to Splinter’s request for comment, but we’ll update this post if any of them reply.
Update, 3:00 p.m. ET: Jacob Peters, communications director for Kelly’s campaign, said in a statement to Splinter: “This dangerous rhetoric has absolutely no place in Arizona and is what’s wrong with our politics. Mark Kelly is running for Senate to overcome this type of nasty divisiveness that does nothing for Arizonans.”
Update, 4:10 p.m. ET: Neither Ward nor the state GOP responded to Splinter’s emailed request for comment, but Ward did tag me and numerous other reporters who wrote about her in this tweet, which screenshots a vulgar message she received.