Mark Kelly's silence speaks volumes about his campaign strategy

Mark Kelly's silence speaks volumes about his campaign strategy
AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin

Gun control activists may have been defeated in their bid to install one of their own as the head of the ATF last year, but they’re hoping to be more successful at keeping one of their own in the U.S. Senate despite the prospect of a red-wave election come November.


Mark Kelly, Arizona’s junior senator and the co-founder of the gun control group Giffords, won a special election to fill the remaining two years of the late John McCain’s Senate term, but now he’s up for a full six-year term of his own, and as The Hill reports, his campaign strategy is simple: shut up and take people’s money.

Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) is relying on a tried-and-true strategy of raising boatloads of money while keeping his head down on hot-button issues in a bid to win his Senate race, a contest that is a linchpin for both parties’ strategies to win control of the upper chamber.

Kelly hasn’t staked out firm positions on issues like filibuster reform and President Biden’s sprawling social and climate spending bill, keeping with a successful approach he employed when he first ran in 2020. But despite remaining vague on some of Democrats’ top issues, he still raised nearly $9 million in the final quarter of 2021 and started 2022 with more than $18.5 million in the bank, maintaining his reputation as a financial juggernaut.

The strategy’s shelf life is being thrown into question as Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) says he’ll force floor votes on Senate rules changes and some form of Biden’s Build Back Better plan, which would push Kelly to go on record. But the Arizonan is anticipated to stay the course for as long as he can.

He’s holding his water on some of those issues that could be troublesome,” said Arizona Democratic consultant Bill Scheel. “Sen. Kelly has not gotten either the attacks from the right or the skepticism from the left so far during the campaign, and that’s certainly worked to his advantage.”


Far from being an anti-gun stalwart during his short time in the Senate, Kelly’s been mostly sticking to the shadows. He never forcefully defended David Chipman’s nomination to the ATF on the floor of the Senate, even though Chipman’s employed as a lobbyist at the gun control group Kelly co-founded with his wife. He’s never demanded the passage of Biden’s anti-gun agenda from the well of the Senate either.

Now, it’s not like Kelly’s had a sudden change of heart when it comes to Second Amendment issues. He’s simply playing the long game. Better to keep your mouth shut for a year and be rewarded with a six-year term than remind Arizona voters of your actual ideology by taking a vocal and public stand on gun control and other progressive wish list items and get voted out of office next November.

Will Chuck Schumer help him (and other swing-state senators) out and not make them vote on nuking the filibuster? That vote, originally scheduled for Monday, has now been pushed back until at least Wednesday, though there are reports that Schumer and company are trying to come up with a another plan.

Senate Democrats are scrambling for a Plan B to pass voting rights legislation after Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) announced last week that they would not vote to change the Senate’s filibuster rule despite the pleading of President Biden.

Now some Democrats are discussing a novel approach to circumventing a Republican filibuster that may allow voting rights legislation to pass with 51 votes without changing the Senate’s rules.

These Democrats, including Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), are exploring the possibility of forcing Senate Republicans to actually hold the floor with speeches and procedural motions.

They hope that the Republican opposition may tire itself out after a few days or weeks and that Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) may be able to then call for a simple-majority vote on final passage and skip the formal procedural vote — known as cloture — on ending debate.


This might avoid a vote on scrapping the filibuster altogether, but it’s not clear at this point whether Democrats can even successfully pull this rabbit out of their hat. There’s a reason neither party has attempted this strategy in the past, but desperate times call for desperate measures, and Democrats are growing increasingly desperate to chalk up something they can call a legislative win before the midterms. But with Americans increasingly convinced that the left isn’t paying enough attention to their priorities, I’d argue that the Democrats are losing ground with every hour they waste on their attempted power grab when it comes to elections. For that reason alone, I hope they keep it up, and I do hope they manage to put every one of their members in the Senate on the record when it comes to the filibuster; including the silent senator from Arizona.

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