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There are significant reasons for the razor-thin race in Arizona between two Congresswomen. Martha McSally and Kyrsten Sinema are focused on getting the votes of the 3 to 6 percent still undecided. Martha McSally’s basic problem is overcoming the dead weight of the past two Republican Senators, who damaged the party brand for that critical subset of voters. I have urged Martha McSally to clearly declare herself on the side of the MAGA agenda, including the 2020 election, as Ambassador Nikki Haley did. Unfortunately, Congresswoman McSally has not. So what are these voters to do?
Arizona, as with many other states, has moved heavily towards mail-in ballots, and early voting at physical polling places. The fight, now, may be over only about 20 percent of votes in the election, if an estimated 80% cast early ballots. The currently counted early ballot statistics, by party registration, look similar to past years, so gives no strong support to any candidate approaching the winner’s circle. Since undecided voters have held off, there is a real fight to gain the election-winning votes.
Provided that there is near certainty of holding and growing the Republican majority in the Senate. There are reasonable grounds to reject Martha McSally, as the Arizona GOP favorite, punishing them for a primary and general campaign that suggests more of the same betrayal on core promises. There is a case to be made for a Senate election strategy of “elimination as addition,” that produces a more coherent majority, more faithful to the core promises made for the past 10 to 40 years.
Major Martha McSally was a truly courageous officer, who demonstrated a steadfast understanding of and support for our Constitution, even in the face of resistance from her entire chain of command, all the way to the Secretary of Defense. She used all the correct processes, all the way, but did not back down.
“I can fly a single-seat aircraft in enemy territory, but I can’t drive a vehicle,” McSally told CBS’s 60 Minutes in 2002, a year after she filed a lawsuit against Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld challenging the abaya policy. ”They turned me into a fighter pilot. This is who I am. When I see something messed up, I’m going to challenge it.”
That sounds like what we want in the Senate.
Congresswoman Martha McSally faithfully represented her district in the House of Representatives. I used to live in that district and saw it move from moderate Republican, with the long-time Congressman Jim Kolbe, to moderate Democrat. Kolbe was outed as homosexual by gay activists, angered by his vote for the Defense of Marriage Act. in 1996. He explained that he represented his district’s voters, putting their policy preference before his personal belief and interest. As his district changed, he then voted in line with both his personal and district beliefs. I believe that his position was politically honorable, and I hold that Martha McSally honorably represented her district’s voters—as Senator Susan Collins represents the voters of Maine.
But, why choose to run in that district, if your political beliefs are more conservative? First, we ought to be about retaking ground, persuading on the margins, rather than playing a long-term losing game of defense. That was part of the answer Martha McSally offered as she took three tries to finally win the district.
Second, Martha McSally was deeply connected with the 2nd District because of her military career field. If you flew A-10s, you were going to be in the Tucson area. Looking at the opening, and maybe closing, argument for electing a Republican in that district, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, with associated support activities, is reason enough to elect a Representative who has the resume to get on the House Armed Services Committee in their first term.
Now, Arizona voters must decide who will be their next Senator. The issues raised in “What if Martha McSally Loses, While the Republican Senate Caucus Grows?” must be weighed, along with the best estimate of how Senators will behave in the next four years, before typical politicians start “adjusting” their record to get reelected. It seems to me that Martha McSally’s life record points to her representing the voters who actually engage and elect Senators from Arizona. She did wage an eight-year-long campaign, within the institutional rules, to force the Department of Defense to follow the Constitution. So, there are grounds to believe she will challenge the Senate leadership and federal agencies, over the long term, if she sees a grave wrong, in accordance with the Constitution she has so long sworn to defend.