CAPTAIN MARK KELLY OF GIFFORDS.ORG CAMPAIGNS IN BREA FOR GIL CISNEROS

MATT COKER | JANUARY 23, 2018 | 5:56AM

Mark Kelly, the retired U.S. Navy captain, test pilot, combat veteran and NASA astronaut, will be in Brea today to campaign for Gil Cisneros, a Democrat seeking the 39th congressional district seat, whose current occupant announced his retirement.

Kelly and his wife, former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle “Gabby” Giffords (D-Arizona), are the co-founders of Giffords.org, a law center and political action committee that are trying to reduce gun violence in this country. Among the candidates Giffords.org has endorsed this election cycle is Cisneros, who is seeking to replace Rep. Ed Royce (R-Brea).

Veteran lawmaker Royce, whose district went for Hillary Clinton by a whopping nine points in the 2016 presidential election, and which has since attracted many Democratic donors, strategists and candidates for the upcoming congressional race, recently announced he will not seek another term. The announcement came after the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee labeled the 39th a first-round target on its battlefield map and just before the Cook Political Report changed the district’s status from “Leans Republican” to “Leans Democratic.”

Gil CisnerosGil Cisneros

Among the Democratic candidates drawn to the race is Cisneros, a former U.S. Navy lieutenant commander and 2010 California Mega Millions lottery winner, who along with his wife has parlayed a new fortune into philanthropy. The Gilbert & Jacki Cisneros Foundation partnered with the Hispanic Scholarship Fund and the city of Pico Rivera to create Generation First Degree Pico Rivera, with the goal of putting a college degree in every Hispanic household in the city.

On Jan. 8, 2011, Gabby Giffords was shot while meeting with constituents in her hometown of Tucson, where six people were killed and 12 others besides the congresswoman were wounded. A month after the mass shooting of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012, Giffords and Kelly, who are gun owners themselves, formed Americans for Responsible Solutions to address the gun violence epidemic. In 2016, that organization merged with the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence to form Giffords.org.

Last year, the Cisneros congressional campaign released a digital video that highlighted his family’s history with gun violence. In November, he won the endorsement of Giffords.org “for his record of standing up on behalf of communities against the gun lobby, advocating for universal background checks and fighting to prevent domestic abusers and terrorists from buying firearms,” according to his campaign.

Which brings us to today’s “town hall discussion on the gun violence epidemic and campaign office opening” featuring an appearance by Kelly. It is set to begin at 11:30 a.m. at the Cisneros Field Office, 391 S. State College Blvd., Unit L, Brea.

Others who have endorsed Cisneros include: Vote Vets; former Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove); her sister and current Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Lakewood); Rep. Nanette Barragán (D-San Pedro); Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-El Monte); Rep. Raul Ruiz (D-Palm Desert); Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-San Bernardino); Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Commerce); civil rights activist/labor leader Dolores Huerta; and entertainers Eva Longoria and George Lopez.

Other Democrats running in the June primary election are: Jay Chen, Sam Jammal, Phil Janowicz, Ted Rusk, Andy Thorburn and Dr. Mai Khanh Tran. Following Royce’s Jan. 8 retirement announcement, Republicans who quickly revealed they are jumping into the race are: former state Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff, Orange County Supervisor Shawn Nelson, La Mirada City Councilman Andrew Sarega and Young Kim, the incumbent’s former longtime aide and recipient of his endorsement. Accountant John Cullum has said he is strongly considering a bid as a GOP candidate, while Steve Cox and Julio Castañeda are running as independents.