Martha McSally has fond memories from growing up in Rhode Island. She remembers her feet in the waters of Matunuk digging for clams and shoveling snow from the driveway in the blizzard of ’78.
She went to Bay View Academy and earned an honorary doctorate in Civil Law from Rhode Island College.
Her late father, Bernard McSally, was the chairman of the School Committee and her mother, Ellie McSally, was a teacher at Scott Elementary School.
Mayor Scott Avedisian, who knew the McSallys growing up, said the entire family is invested in public service.
Avedisian said, “Her home town roots are something that she continues to showcase. I supported her race for Congress the last time and look forward to supporting her again this year.”
McSally said the values she was brought up with are most important to her.
“My family taught me to treasure hard work, service, education, and making a difference and those values will be brought to the forefront of my campaign,” she said in a recent interview.
McSally, a woman with a multitude of accomplishments, is running for Congress in Southern Arizona’s District 2.
In 2012 she ran against incumbent Ron Barber and lost by less than 1 percent. Having had only 68 days to mount a campaign before the primary, McSally rallied in the election but still came up .84 percent short.
Running against Barber again this year, McSally believes she will win.
“This year we have a lot more time to campaign. I am now known politically in the community where before I was known by my military service. Now we are just building on the momentum that’s been sustained since the 2012 election. Hopefully, we can complete the mission,” McSally said.
McSally, a retired Air Force colonel, is running as a Republican. She does not think of herself as a politician, but she believes “changing Washington means changing who represents us”
and she wants to lead the way.
She said, “The whole country is frustrated with D.C. because of the lack of leadership. Too many people are concerned with their next election instead of the next generation.”
McSally is a woman of firsts and her career proves she has the leadership qualities needed.
She was the first woman in U.S. history to fly a fighter pilot in combat as well as to command a fighter squadron in combat. She also successfully overturned a military policy that required servicewomen to wear the religious Muslim Abaya when off base.
Now, having made her life in Tucson, Ariz., McSally hopes to take her military experience and love of her community to serve them as their congressional representative. With a large military community, having two large bases as well as 85,000 veterans, McSally’s highly successful military career will have a lot of pull at the polls.
“Military service is really important. People know I have experience getting things done. I know how the military works and understand national security,” McSally said.
McSally believes that the decline of veterans in Congress and in public service is detrimental for the country.
“We need more vets in Congress that are going to understand what it takes to get the job done,” McSally said. “There are so few vets now, especially women veterans and the number of women who serve is growing rapidly and they deserve to be represented”
Throughout her time in the military and now in her campaign, McSally has been a big supporter of woman’s rights. She fought for them and put her career on the line in the Middle East to ensure servicewomen did not have to wear the Abaya when leaving a military base. She has also pushed her way through ranks and stereotypes in the Air Force to gain positions previously only allowed for men.
She says she enjoys defying stereotypes. As a feminist Republican, she asserts that is not an oxymoron, although many people may see it that way.
McSally left one male-dominated field for another. Now entering politics, she is still sometimes the “only woman in the room.” But rather than hurt her ability, she says its helped her.
She said, “I have become comfortable in the environment, I wouldn’t wish the challenges I faced in the military on anyone else, but they helped me become who I am. I can tell when I’m not being considered an equal from miles away. I know how to gain and demand respect in those situations and exude leadership.”
McSally wants to take all these experiences and put them to use in D.C. and represent her community in Southern Arizona.
“I’m not one to walk by a problem,” she said. “When I see something broken, I fix it; when something is wrong, I make it right. I want to bring my pragmatic leadership to Congress. Moving forward I want to solve the problems hurting the middle class American and do my part.”
The primary for Arizona’s Second Congressional District is Aug. 26 and the General Election will be Nov. 4.