Martha McSally ran against incumbent Rep. Ron Barber in November 2014. After six weeks of waiting for a recount, McSally won by 167 votes, according to Arizona Public Media, and became the congresswoman representing Arizona’s second district.
Rep. McSally spent 26 years serving in the U.S. Air Force, and was the first female fighter pilot to fly in combat and to command a fighter squadron in combat in U.S. history. In 2010, she retired from the U.S. Air Force as a Colonel. Today in Congress, McSally serves on the Armed Services Committee and the Homeland Security Committee, according to mcsally.house.gov.
There was a 43-day recount after the initial voting period; but once McSally was officially in office, she said, “We hit the ground running.”
One of her top priorities since day one has been focusing on legislation that will make a difference in the lives of the residents living in her district.
McSally said she recognizes how diverse her district is — not just politically, but in respects to age, ethnicity, and in both urban and rural aspects. From speaking with constituents, McSally said she has found that the two top issues that concern Southern Arizonans are economic opportunity and security. She also stresses the importance of focusing on issues that unite a community, instead of those that tear it apart.
She said the higher-education institution here at the UA is “amazing.” She stressed the need to make sure all graduates have good paying jobs in the Tucson community to ensure they stay in the area.
McSally said she wants to see UA graduates “reach their potential, reach their dreams, be financially independent and get a good job out of college.”
McSally also reflected upon her time in college and the difficulties she faced to be able to afford a 4-year university.
“I’m the youngest of five kids, and my dad died when I was 12 years old,” she said. “We grew up knowing that education was the key to our future, … but we couldn’t afford it.”
In order to save herself and her mother from exponential amounts of student debt, McSally joined the military.
“It’s a complicated issue, but I am committed to making sure that higher education is affordable and available for anyone who wants to achieve their dreams and get a higher education,” McSally said.
She said that she is a big supporter of Pell Grants and that she believes that working together with the public sector, the federal and state governments, and the private sector to figure out a way to bring the cost of college down, without bankrupting people, families or the country, is vital to the path towards lowering the cost of tuition.
McSally might be a new member of Congress, but she’s making strides on Capitol Hill.
“Protecting Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and the A-10 has been a critical part of the economic impact to the community. I was able to keep the A-10 funded and flying for another year,” she said.
McSally also said she’s looking at opportunities to increase trade with Mexico.
“We’re right on the border, and although that comes with its security challenges, it also comes with opportunity,” McSally said. She has put in legislation to designate the Sonoran Corridor, a project that would connect the corridor from Interstate 19 to Interstate 10 to enhance trade into our national highway infrastructure.
Elise Bailey, a political science junior and secretary for the Arizona Federation of College Republicans, was an intern for McSally’s 2013 campaign.
“[McSally] is honestly one of the most inspiring women I’ve ever met. She gives me a lot of hope for the future that there might be more people out there like her,” Bailey said.
While working on her campaign, Bailey remembers it being hectic and busy, yet exciting.
“I was going to make history, no matter what,” she said.
Although it’s hard for anyone in Congress to find free time, McSally makes it a priority to come back home every weekend.
“I kind of have this mindset that I’m deployed to D.C. when I go there,” she said.
While in Southern Arizona, she spends time with constituents, learning what is important to individuals, businesses and families, so when she goes back to Washington, she’s making a difference.
McSally loves the outdoors and has always been athletic. She said she often gets up early in the morning to go running with her rescue golden retriever, Boomer.
“It really helps me stay fit and clear my head,” she said. McSally also enjoys hiking, swimming and biking, and looks forward to “eating some good Tucson Mexican food.”
McSally has always said that she is not a politician. She has served the people of the United States in the U.S. Air Force, and now she’s serving the people in Southern Arizona.
“She’s not afraid to stand up for what she believes in,” Bailey said. “She’s not afraid to go against anyone. Even if she might make a few enemies, if she thinks it’s the best for her district, she’s willing to do what it takes.”
Christianna Silva contributed reporting.
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