Republican Jesse Kelly confirmed Friday that’s he’s joining the race for the Congressional seat vacated by Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.
Kelly becomes the third Republican to officially declare for the Republican primary following state Sen. Frank Antenori and sports broadcaster and businessman Dave Sitton. Antenori announced on Jan. 27 and Sitton declared on Thursday.
This will be Kelly’s second attempt to win a Congressional seat. He narrowly lost to Giffords in 2010, losing 48.7 percent to 47.3 percent, with a Libertarian candidate taking nearly 4 percent of the vote.
Kelly made his announcement Friday morning at his campaign office in Tucson.
Kelly, a U.S. Marine Corps combat veteran who served in Iraq, now works in his family construction business, Don Kelly Construction, as a project manager.
During his announcement event Friday, Kelly repeated several times what his platform will be: lower taxes, a strong economy and more jobs. Just like in 2010, families are struggling in Southern Arizona, he said.
“They need more of their money, they don’t need the government to continue to tax them into the ground,” Kelly said. “Families want their taxes lowered. They want more jobs and they want better jobs.”
He advocated a 10 percent flat income tax for all Americans, and to bring the tax burden down for businesses that create jobs.
“There’s not a single tax out there that I don’t support lowering,” Kelly said.
He will be joining a race that wasn’t even planned a month ago, but Giffords’ announcement on Jan. 22 that she would resign triggered the special election. She chose to step down to focus on her recovery from being shot in the head in an assassination attempt on Jan. 8, 2011, in Tucson.
The special election primary is April 17, and the special general election is June 12.
Speaking of his opponent in the 2010 election, Kelly said his prayers are with Giffords and all the victims of the shooting.
“The congresswoman worked hard for this district and we intend to do the same,” Kelly said.
In the Democratic primary, state Rep. Matt Heinz of Tucson is the only person to officially announce his candidacy. Many are expecting Giffords to endorse a candidate, but she has yet to do that.
Kelly also committed Friday to run In the regular election in what will be called Congressional District 2. Many of the voters in what is now District 8 will see two rounds of primary and general elections this year.
The special election will be in the existing CD8, in which Republicans have an advantage in registered voters. The regular election will be in the new district of CD2, where the gap between Democrats and Republicans is minimal.
That means two campaign-finance reports and potentially two campaign strategies.
Kelly said he expects the campaign in the special election to remain positive and refrained from taking any shots at Antenori or Sitton. In addition to his platform to improve the economy, he said he’ll campaign on a message of values. Kelly is married and has two young sons.
“I am not a politician, I am a businessman. I manage construction projects, I’m a husband and father,” Kelly said. “The founding fathers, when they created this country, didn’t want all politicians or all one thing or another. They were lawyers, they were soldiers, they were business people. They came from all walks of life. We need that kind of diversity in Congress.”