Jesse Kelly Launches Congressional Campaign To Fill Giffords' Empty Seat



Republican Jesse Kelly has jumped into the CD8 special election to fill the open seat left by Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ resignation.

“We need lower taxes, a strong economy and more jobs,” Kelly said in a meeting with reporters this morning.

Kelly, who narrowly lost to Giffords in 2010, had been planning to announce his plan to challenge her again in 2012, but after the Jan. 8 shooting rampage, he dropped out of the political spotlight. In recent months, he has been spending much of his time in San Antonio, Texas, where his family’s construction business, Don Kelly Construction, has won a contract for part of a major public-works project.

The Kelly campaign did not have details on the San Antonio project available this morning, but said they would provide them later.

Kelly, a political rookie in 2010 who adopted a Tea Party approach to government that included a mish-mash of tax policy that ranged from a 10 percent income tax for all Americans to a new federal sales tax of 25 percent on all goods and services, caught lightning in a bottle for his first congressional run. But it remains to be seen if he can replicate his campaign team—at least two key players, campaign manager Adam Kwasman and deputy campaign manager Stuart McDaniel—are busy with their own campaigns, although other key players, including spokesman John Ellinwood, are back with Kelly for the special-election run.

In addition, some of his previous supporters are now gravitating toward state Sen. Frank Antenori, another Tea Party-backed Republican.

Kelly, who said today he wanted to replace all income and payroll taxes with a single 10 percent flat tax on all Americans, said he would not be attacking any of his fellow Republican candidates.

“The campaign is going to be a positive campaign,” Kelly said. “The campaign is going to be about each candidate representing themselves. … I don’t anticipate any kind of negative campaign.”

But Antenori has already been taking shots at Kelly for dropping out of Southern Arizona politics in the wake of the Jan. 8 shooting.

“What's really astonishing is that (Kelly) had no intentions of running in the normal election, and he had already started cutting staff away, and all of a sudden, Mr. Opportunity is back in town,” Antenori complained last week.

Antenori said he had been in the thick of political battles over redistricting and a city of Tucson election, while Kelly was nowhere to be found.

“We went through a period of time in the state when there were a lot of political battles,” Antenori told The Range. “Some of us stayed to fight those battles and work for the conservative cause in the party, and some of us didn't. When the going gets tough, Jesse Kelly gets going.”

Kelly said today that his job with the family construction business requires him to travel all around the country.

“My wife and I are raising our two boys right here in Southern Arizona,” Kelly said.

With marketing businessman and sports broadcaster Dave Sitton getting into the race yesterday, it looks like the field is complete on the GOP side.

We’ll be talking about the CD8 special election on tonight’s Arizona Illustrated Political Roundtable. Tune in for a conversation with GOP pollster Margaret Kenski, who knows the voters in that district better than anybody on earth, and then more conversation with Pima County Democratic Party chairman Jeff Rogers and Sam Stone, the former spokesman for the Pima County Republican Party.

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