Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer of N.Y., second from right, talks with the newly elected senators, from left, Sen.-elect John Hickenlooper, D-Colo., Sen.-elect Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M., and Sen.-elect Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., before a meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) John Hickenlooper, Ben Ray Lujan, Chuck Schumer, Mark Kelly
Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer of N.Y., second from right, talks with the newly elected senators, from left, Sen.-elect John Hickenlooper, D-Colo., Sen.-elect Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M., and Sen.-elect Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., before a meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, Nov. 9, 2020. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Kelly will be seated at the end of this month, giving him about a month less than normal to prepare. 

Capt. Mark Kelly has already headed to Washington, D.C., and he’s bringing expertise from a bipartisan team with him. 

Kelly defeated Martha McSally for Arizona’s open Senate seat. McSally waited 10 days to concede, finally calling Kelly to congratulate him Friday.

The Democrat will take office at the end of this month when election results are certified, as the race was a special election to fill the seat left empty by the late Republican Sen. John McCain. Kelly will serve out the remainder of McCain’s final term, which lasts until January 2023. 


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This situation gives Kelly about a month less to prepare than if he would have taken over the seat in early January like normal. 

As a result, he has put together a 13-person bipartisan transition team meant to help him get up to speed on issues facing Arizona and the best ways to represent the state.

“As I prepare for the work of representing all Arizonans in the U.S. Senate, I want Arizonans to know that I am committed to being a Senator who will work to get things done and be an independent voice for them in Washington on Day One,” Kelly said in a press release. “This team of community leaders, Republicans and Democrats, will help ensure we are successful in this next mission, serving and getting results for Arizonans.”

The transition team’s expertise covers a wide set of issues, including politics, business, the environment, and more. 


Politics

Diane McCarthy McCarthy, who served as a Republican in the Arizona House of Representative and on the Corporation Commission before leading institutions like Phoenix Children’s Hospital, reached out to Kelly about being on the team.  She said this team is unique because of how quickly they have to work. 

“This one has to have a lot of gasoline behind it because it is so short,” she said. 

The team also includes former U.S. Rep. Ron Barber, D-Arizona. After Kelly’s wife Gabrielle Giffords was shot in 2011 and resigned, Barber filled the vacancy. He defeated McSally in 2012 to keep the seat, but lost to her in 2014. 

Flagstaff Mayor Coral Evans, a Democrat who ran for the Arizona House this year, is part of the group as well. 

The team also features two members of Rep. Tom O’Halleran’s (D-Arizona) staff: tribal director Luther Lee and district director Blanca Varela. 


Business/Labor

Sharon Harper, a board member of the McCain Institute, and CEO of Peoria real estate firm Plaza Companies, is co-chair of Kelly’s team. 

David Adame, also on Kelly’s team, is president and CEO of Chicanos Por La Causa, a nonprofit dedicated to “economic and political empowerment” for Hispanic communities. 

Another member, Yolanda Bejarano, is a union organizer with Communications Workers of America. And Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Ted Maxwell is president and CEO of the Southern Arizona Leadership Council.


Education, Environment, and Health

Kelly has an education representative on the team with co-chair Luis Heredia, executive director of the Arizona Education Association. 

Dr. Joe Gerald, associate professor of public health policy and management at University of Arizona, will be able to offer advice on COVID-19. 

And for environmental issues, Kelly has Bill McDonald, a rancher and founding executive director of Malpai Borderlands Group, and Sarah Porter, director of the Kyl Center for Water Policy at Arizona State University. 


“Godspeed, Get to Washington”

Even with  the pressure to prepare the senator-elect quickly, McCarthy thinks the team is up to the task. 

“The people I know who are on the transition team, I think this is one and done,” McCarthy said. “I don’t think we have to do more than to get together with one group and say, ‘Hey this is the way, if everybody agrees, this is the way you do it, and godspeed, get to Washington.’” 

While she wasn’t sure what goals Kelly would try to tackle first, she said the team has to confront Arizona’s changing dynamics. 

“One of the big issues would be how quickly Arizona has grown. And what are the issues now?” she said. 

And, most importantly, she said, the state’s spirit of bipartisanship needs to be revived. 

“Since the beginning of my political background, I have never seen the Rs and the Ds argue over silly things,” she said. “What everybody needs to do is get together and talk about Arizona, not about what their political part of it is.”


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