Front view of person holding ballot paper casting vote at a polling station for election vote in black background

Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly have boldly gone where few Arizonans from their party have gone before. 

Their joint membership in the “World’s Most Exclusive Club” marks the first time since 1953 that the Grand Canyon State has been represented in the Senate by a pair of Democrats.

Sen. Sinema’s unconventional fashion choices began a buzz upon her arrival, but she followed a conventional political path to the upper chamber. 

That’s not the case for her new Arizona colleague.

Like John Glenn and Jack Schmitt before him, Mark Kelly’s path to the Senate was “out of this world”; to stay there, history’s third astronaut-turned-senator must continue to defy political gravity.

It won’t be easy.

Elected last November to complete the unfinished term of the late John McCain, Kelly must again face the voters in 2022. Unsurprisingly, Arizona Republicans have made the recovery of that Senate seat their top priority. Businessman Jim Lamon has already thrown his hat in the ring, and more GOP candidates are expected to announce soon.

Adding to Kelly’s challenge is the audacious overreach of his fellow Democrats in the House. Nancy Pelosi’s narrow majority has passed bills that would cost trillions, change election law to make voting by mail mandatory, and run counter to the Constitution.

Even though our founding document calls for the creation of a seat of government for the United States in Article I, Section 8, Clause 17,  a “District not exceeding 10 miles square…” established by “Cession of particular states and the acceptance of Congress…” and that Maryland and Virginia ceded the land for the creation of Washington, D.C., which was founded in July 1790, last month House Democrats passed HR 51 — a bill for D.C. statehood.

All 216 votes in favor of the measure came from Democrats — underscoring the partisan power play. The legislation would change the name from District of Columbia to Douglass Commonwealth and, more significantly, add two dependable Democrat votes in the Senate.

But the two Arizona Democrat votes in the Senate are not certain to be cast in favor of D.C. statehood. Sens. Sinema and Kelly have not sponsored the bill, and based on the findings of a new poll, they would both be wise to vote against it, should it come to the Senate floor.

A survey of 400 likely Arizona voters was conducted late last month by McLaughlin & Associates for the U.S. Justice Foundation (USJF). It found that a majority of Arizona voters, 50%, oppose D.C. statehood; only 42% support it.

Full disclosure, this columnist chairs USJF’s Advisory Committee.

Moreover, 77% of the respondents were aware of the House passage of the bill by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her narrow Democrat majority and the partisan implications of the legislation once signed into law.

When reviewing and discussing the effects D.C. statehood would bring, the opposition of Arizona voters increased to almost 60%, a decisive majority.

Meanwhile, one Senate Democrat has taken a decisive and public stance against statehood for Washington, D.C. Joe Manchin of West Virginia will oppose the legislation.

Recall that Sens. Manchin and Sinema worked together earlier this year to oppose removal of the filibuster from the Senate rules. Will we see a similar alliance for denying D.C. statehood? And might that duo become a trio with the addition of Kelly?

If so, Mark Kelly could claim the mantle of John McCain, describing himself as a “principled pragmatist” and making a midcourse correction common in spaceflight, not unheard of in public office.

If not, the third astronaut-turned-senator could see his political mission grounded early.


J.D. Hayworth worked as a sportscaster at Channel 10 Phoenix from 1987 until 1994 and represented Arizona in Congress from 1995-2007.