Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Martha McSally's campaign takes wing as she pursues GOP nomination by Rebekah L. Sanders

by Rebekah L. Sanders - July. 29, 2012 09:03 PMThe Republic | azcentral.com

Retired Air Force pilot Martha McSally took a crash course in campaigning this spring.

She spent 68 days at a dead sprint, as she describes it, vying to fill out the remaining months of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' term in Congress.

The southern Arizona special election was called after Giffords stepped down to focus on recovery from a 2011 shooting.

"We were heading out from the starting block in all directions at the same time," said McSally, a Republican whose charisma quickly caught the attention of party insiders.

She came in second in the four-way GOP primary. Democrat Ron Barber, a former Giffords staffer, won the seat and has been in Washington since June.
McSally thinks this time around, the outcome will be different.

"The voters of southern Arizona were making a decision of who they wanted to serve out the remainder of Gabby Giffords' term," she said. "The election in June was about the past. The election in November is about the future."

McSally faces almost no competition in the Aug. 28 primary.

Her former competitors decided not to run again. And candidate Mark Koskiniemi is a political novice with negligible funding.

That means her focus is on winning in November, when she is expected to face Barber, barring an upset in his Democratic primary. He is running against state Rep. Matt Heinz, a Tucson doctor.

Barber so far has the tailwind.

Redistricting turned District 2 into a more favorable district for Democrats. The party will likely pour money into the race, as it did when Giffords was a candidate. And more voters know Barber's name.

McSally lost her campaign spokesman, one of the first people to support her campaign, in June when He was accused of passing tips during the special-election campaign to a Barber staffer on how to beat Jesse Kelly, the Republican candidate, who days after the election announced that he would not seek the full term. Though the tips were nothing revelatory, Barber's victory helped clear the GOP field for McSally to run. When the news broke, she accepted her spokesman's resignation.

McSally's fundraising shows she could be a tough contender. She collected $141,000 in the three weeks after the special election and was close to matching the money Barber had on hand.

Her approach on the campaign trail focuses on listening.

"I want to sit down and get the perspectives of those I will represent," she said. "Even if they disagree with me, they can trust me. I'm not going to yell at them. I'm seriously trying to solve problems."

It's McSally's personal story that has attracted much of her support.

She became the first female Air Force pilot to fly in combat, during the Gulf War, and later the first female squadron commander. She later sued the Defense Department to overturn a policy requiring servicewomen to don Muslim garb before going off base in Saudi Arabia.

Tucson financial adviser Emerson Knowles read about her lawsuit in the newspaper years ago.

"I remember thinking, 'I don't know who this woman is, but I want to shake her hand,'" said Knowles, a self-described moderate Republican. He couldn't believe it when she turned out to be running in his hometown.

Though he voted for her in the special-election primary, Knowles was drawn out of the new District 2. He continued to donate to her campaign and is asking friends to take a look.

"If you're willing to put the lid on your military career to stand up for women's rights, it tells me a lot about your character," said Knowles. "You're going to be willing to tell a lobbyist to go take a hike."

Read more: http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/local/articles/2012/07/29/20120729mcsally-campaign-republican.html#ixzz228blTI46

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