WASHINGTON -- Mark Kelly won't run for the seat being vacated by his wife, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), he told Arizona Republic on Wednesday.
"I am not running for Congress," Kelly said in an interview with Arizona reporters. Kelly, a retired astronaut, made his remarks shortly after Giffords handed in her letter of resignation to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). Lawmakers in both parties gathered in the chamber Wednesday morning to bid an emotional farewell to Giffords, who is stepping down from Congress to focus on her recovery from being shot in the head in a January 2011 shooting spree in Tucson.
"Today was a sad day," Kelly said. Stepping down is "not what Gabby wanted," he said, but "it was evident to her that she was not improving ... fast enough" to return to Congress.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), a close friend of Giffords', broke down in tears as she read aloud her resignation letter on the House floor with Giffords at her side.
"I have given all of myself to being able to walk back onto the House floor this year to represent Arizona's 8th Congressional District. However, today I know that now is not the time. I have more work to do on my recovery before I can again serve in elected office," Giffords' letter read. "Every day I am working hard. I will recover and will return and we will work together again for Arizona and for all Americans."
Giffords will deliver her resignation letter on Thursday to Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who will then determine the dates for the special elections to fill Giffords' seat for the remainder of her 2012 term.
Kelly told Arizona Republic that Giffords "never planned to be a career politician" and that it was "very unlikely" she would have served in Congress for decades. He said there is a "pretty good chance" she will endorse a candidate seeking to fill her seat, but it won't be him.
For now, Kelly said his plans include making breakfast for Giffords -- "which I really love to do" -- as the couple return to being private citizens. Among the things they've talked about doing in the next couple of years: having a baby.