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Mark Kelly sworn in as Democratic senator from Arizona

Arizona certifies election results
Arizona certifies election results 01:42

Washington — Democrat Mark Kelly of Arizona was sworn in as senator on Wednesday, marking the first time in over 67 years that the state has two Democratic members in the upper chamber.

Kelly, a former astronaut and the husband of former congresswoman and gun control activist Gabby Giffords, defeated incumbent Republican Senator Martha McSally in a special election last month. McSally was appointed to her seat, once held by the late Senator John McCain, after losing to Democrat Kyrsten Sinema in 2018. He will serve the remainder of McCain's term, which ends in 2022.

Giffords watched Kelly's swearing in, administered by Vice President Mike Pence, from the family gallery in the Senate chamber.  

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Senator Mark Kelly is sworn-in by Vice President Mike Pence while Senator Kyrsten Sinema holds a Bible on the Senate floor on December 2, 2020. Senate TV

Arizona, once a longtime Republican stronghold, elected Kelly to the Senate and President-elect Joe Biden this year. The last time two Democrats held the Senate seats in Arizona was in January 1953, after then-Senate Majority Leader Ernest McFarland lost his reelection to conservative stalwart Barry Goldwater in 1952.

Although he died in 2018, McCain's presence loomed over the presidential and Senate races this year. McCain was a fierce critic of President Trump, and Mr. Trump has frequently disparaged the late senator even after his death. McCain's widow, Cindy McCain, endorsed Mr. Biden for president. Mr. Biden and McCain had a close relationship due to their decades serving together in the Senate. The Arizona senator also died of the same brain cancer as Mr. Biden's son, Beau Biden.

Kelly tweeted a picture of himself and Giffords paying their respects at McCain's grave on Tuesday.

"This morning my family paid our respects to Senator John McCain as I prepare to be sworn in tomorrow. Senator McCain has been a hero of mine since I was a young pilot. He left a legacy of service to Arizona and country that can't be matched, but that we should all strive towards," Kelly wrote.

Kelly was one of two Democrats to flip Republican seats in the Senate this year, along with Senator-elect John Hickenlooper of Colorado, who defeated incumbent Senator Cory Gardner. With his swearing in, the Republican majority in the Senate narrows to 52 to 48 seats.

When the next Senate convenes in January, Republicans will have a thin majority of 50 to 48. Two special elections in Georgia will then determine whether Republicans maintain it, or if Democrats would gain a razor-thin majority of 50 to 50. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would break any tie.

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