Martha Elizabeth McSally (born March 22, 1966) is an American politician and retired military commander. McSally served in the United States Air Force from 1988-2010, rising to the rank of Colonel. After leaving the Air Force, McSally was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 2014, representing Arizona's 2nd congressional district as a Republican. McSally was one of the highest ranking female pilots in the history of the Air Force. She was the first American woman to fly in combat following the 1991 lifting of the prohibition on female combat pilots.
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Arizona's 2nd district
Assumed office |
January 3, 2015
|Preceded by||Ron Barber|
Martha Elizabeth McSally|
March 22, 1966
Warwick, Rhode Island, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Donald Henry (m. 1997; annulled 1999)|
United States Air Force Academy (BS)|
Harvard University (MPP)
|Service/branch||United States Air Force|
|Years of service||1988–2010|
|Commands||354th Fighter Squadron|
Operation Southern Watch|
Operation Allied Force
Operation Enduring Freedom
She flew the Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II 'Warthog' close air support aircraft over Iraq and Kuwait during Operation Southern Watch. She was also the first female commander of a USAF fighter squadron, the 354th Fighter Squadron (354 FS) based at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.
In 2001, she successfully sued the United States Department of Defense in McSally v. Rumsfeld, challenging the military policy that required U.S. and U.K. servicewomen stationed in Saudi Arabia to wear the body-covering abaya when traveling off base in the country.
Early life and educationEdit
McSally was born in 1966 in Warwick, Rhode Island, the youngest of five children. In 1978, her father, Bernard, a lawyer, died of a heart attack. Her mother, Eleanor, worked as a reading specialist to support the family.
McSally graduated at the top of her class at St. Mary's Academy, Bayview in 1984. She earned an appointment to the United States Air Force Academy, graduating in 1988. She earned a master's degree from Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government following graduation from USAFA and then proceeded to pilot training. McSally was first in her class at the Air War College.
McSally earned her USAF Pilot wings following graduation from Undergraduate Pilot Training at Laughlin AFB, Texas and was initially assigned to Laughlin as a First Assignment Instructor Pilot (FAIP) in the T-37 jet trainer. Following the repeal of the combat aircraft restriction for female pilots, she completed Lead-in Fighter Training (LIFT) in 1993. McSally became the first woman in U.S. history to fly a combat aircraft into enemy territory when she flew into Iraq in support of the United Nations no-fly zone enforcement.
McSally completed Replacement Training Unit for the A-10 Thunderbolt II at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona, and was assigned to an operational A-10 squadron and was deployed to Kuwait in January 1995. During that deployment, she flew combat patrols over Iraq in support of Operation Southern Watch, enforcing the no-fly zone over southern Iraq. In 1999, she deployed to Europe in support of Operation Allied Force. McSally was selected as one of seven active duty Air Force officers for the Legislative Fellowship program, during which time she lived in Washington, D.C. and advised Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) on defense and foreign affairs policy.
Promoted to Major, she reported to Joint Task Force Southwest Asia (JTF-SWA) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in 2000 for an Operation Southern Watch temporary assignment. Promoted below the zone to Lieutenant Colonel, she took command of the A-10 equipped 354th Fighter Squadron at Davis-Monthan AFB in July 2004, and was subsequently deployed to Afghanistan under Operation Enduring Freedom, where she employed weapons loaded on her A-10 in combat for the first time. In 2005, McSally and her squadron were awarded the David C. Shilling Award, given by the Air Force Association for the best aerospace contribution to national defense.
Lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Defense (McSally v. Rumsfeld)Edit
McSally was represented by the Rutherford Institute in a successful 2001 lawsuit against the Department of Defense, challenging the military policy that required U.S. and U.K. servicewomen stationed in Saudi Arabia to wear the body-covering abaya when traveling off base in the country. At the time of the lawsuit McSally, as a Major (O-4), was the highest ranking female fighter pilot in the U.S. Air Force. Her suit alleged "the regulations required her to send the message that she believes women are subservient to men." In addition to the issue of religious garb, McSally noted that policies also included other requirements:
In a "60 Minutes" interview broadcast on CBS on January 20, 2002, she described the discrimination she experienced under the policy: "I have to sit in the back and at all times I must be escorted by a male ... [who], when questioned, is supposed to claim me as his wife," she said. "I can fly a single-seat aircraft in enemy territory, but [in Saudi Arabia] I can't drive a vehicle."
During this process, she was granted audience with several high-level officials, including two Secretaries of Defense, William Cohen and Donald Rumsfeld, which was atypical of a service member of her comparatively junior rank and position, especially in light of her public protest. General Tommy Franks, then commander of the United States Central Command (USCENTCOM), announced in 2002 that U.S. military servicewomen would no longer be required to wear the abaya, although they would be "encouraged" to do so as a show of respect for local customs. Commenting on the change, Central Command spokesman Colonel Rick Thomas said it was not made because of McSally's lawsuit, but had already been "under review" before the lawsuit was filed. News reports noted that McSally had been fighting for a change in the policy for seven years, and had filed the lawsuit after she had been threatened with a court martial if she did not comply and wear the abaya.
Critics of the policy noted that while female U.S. military personnel had been required to wear the abaya outside of military installations in Saudi Arabia, the situation was not the same for "women diplomats" of the U.S. Department of State assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh, who were actually encouraged not to wear the abaya when they were involved in official business, "...because they are representing the United States." Others noted that the two departments frequently have different policies and procedures in foreign countries such as alcohol consumption in Afghanistan which is permitted by the State Department but prohibited for military personnel by General Order #1. Embassy officials stated that, "...in their personal time, embassy employees can choose how to dress." According to these U.S. officials, "...the Saudi government does not require non-Muslim women to wear a dark robe known as an abaya.... The official guidance, issued by the Saudi Embassy in Washington, says that foreigners should dress conservatively but they are not required to wear the robe."
Eventually the U.S. Congress "approved legislation that prohibited anyone in the military from requiring or encouraging servicewomen to put on abayas in Saudi Arabia or to use taxpayers’ money to buy them."
McSally has continued to speak out about gender relations in Saudi Arabia. McSally retired from active duty with 22 years of commissioned service in the U.S. Air Force on May 6, 2010. After retiring from the U.S. Air Force, she worked as a professor at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.
U.S. House campaignsEdit
On February 9, 2012, McSally announced her candidacy for the special election for Arizona's 8th congressional district vacancy created by the resignation of Gabrielle Giffords. She was an unsuccessful candidate in the Republican nomination for the special election, losing to Republican nominee Jesse Kelly.
McSally then ran for and won the Republican nomination in the regular election for the district, which had been renumbered as the 2nd District. She faced incumbent Democrat Ron Barber and Libertarian nominee Anthony Powell in the November 2012 election. She was endorsed by the National Federation of Independent Businesses, United States Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Wholesalers, of Commerce, National Association of Home Builders and Associated Builders and Contractors.
The race was one of the closest in the nation. McSally led on election night by a few hundred votes, but the race was deemed too close to call due to a large number of provisional ballots. Barber eventually overtook McSally as more ballots were counted. By November 16, most of the outstanding ballots were in heavily Democratic precincts near Tucson. The Arizona Republic determined that as a result, McSally would not be able to pick up enough votes to overcome Barber's lead. By November 17, Barber's lead over McSally had grown to 1,400 votes. That day, the Associated Press determined that there weren't enough ballots outstanding for McSally to regain the lead, and called the race for Barber. She conceded the race later that morning.
McSally declared her intention of running again for the 2nd district seat in 2014. She won the June 3 primary against two other Republican opponents, taking nearly 70% of the vote. In the November 4 general election, the race was too close to call by the end of election night, and eventually went on to be the final federal election of the 2014 cycle to be decided. With 100% of the votes counted, McSally had a 161-vote lead and declared victory on November 12, 2014, but due to the fact that the margin of victory was less than 1%, an automatic recount was called on December 1. On December 17, the official recount declared McSally the winner by 167 votes. She is only the second Republican ever to represent a southern Arizona-based district in the U.S. House of Representatives; the first was Jim Kolbe, who represented what is now the 2nd district, from 1985 to 2007. McSally is also the first female Republican representative from Arizona.
U.S. House of RepresentativesEdit
In her freshman term in Congress, McSally had seven bills approved by the U.S. House. Among all members of the U.S. House, McSally was tied for third as of 2016 in the number of bills she had authored that have made it through the House. Her bills are generally "narrowly drawn proposals to improve homeland security or to help veterans."
McSally has a reputation as a political moderate, garnered from representing a swing district. For the 114th United States Congress, McSally was ranked as the 30th most bipartisan member of the U.S. House of Representatives (and the second most bipartisan member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Arizona) in the Bipartisan Index created by The Lugar Center and the McCourt School of Public Policy that ranks members of the United States Congress by their degree of bipartisanship (by measuring the frequency each member's bills attract co-sponsors from the opposite party and each member's co-sponsorship of bills by members of the opposite party).
After she was elected to the U.S. House, McSally hired C.J. Karamargin, who was formerly the communications director for Democratic U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords, as her district director.
According to The Arizona Republic, McSally has been "one of the most prolific fundraisers among House members not holding a leadership role, while cultivating a reputation as a conscientious and moderate lawmaker."
Elle wrote that McSally is a political moderate and pragmatic conservative "who seeks to engage in rational discussion based on mutually agreed facts." According to Elle, McSally is both "a fresh and interesting attack dog for the Republicans on foreign and security affairs" and someone who "earns the right wing's ire primarily for refusing to vote to shut down the government over various ultimatums they attach to legislation going to the president for approval, or to toe the line when ideological showdowns come to the House floor."
In 2015, The Douglas Dispatch published an editorial criticizing McSally for blocking their access to meetings in her district. Political analyst Stuart Rothenberg, Tucson Weekly, and Ozy have been critical of McSally for not taking clear positions on policy issues such as the United States federal government shutdown of 2013 and immigration reform.
McSally "opposes abortions in nearly all cases, with exceptions for rape, incest and the mother's health and life." During her 2014 campaign for Congress, McSally did not respond to a question from the Arizona Republic on whether she would vote for a bill backed by House Republicans to ban abortions after 20 weeks. In May 2015, however, McSally voted for the 20-week abortion ban, joining other Republicans in what was mostly a party-line vote.
McSally did not endorse Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election and did not take a position on whether she recommended voters in her district to vote for him. She called his comments about sexual assault "disgusting" and "unacceptable."
In February 2017, she voted against a resolution that would have directed the House to request ten years of Trump's tax returns, which would then have been reviewed by the House Ways and Means Committee in a closed session.
She supports local control of education, stating that, “education for our kids should not be dictated by Washington bureaucrats but by local experts with parent involvement and rewards for excellence. Hard-earned middle-class-taxpayer money should not go to D.C. to strip funds off the top, then return to the states with conditions, paperwork and mandates resulting in cookie-cutter educational recipes."
Environment and energyEdit
McSally supported the Apache Solar Project in 2016. In October 2017, once construction was completed, McSally gave the keynote address during its dedication, calling it a "great example of member-driven co-ops, from the bottom up, figuring out ways to provide reliable power to the community, instead of top-down bureaucrats telling them what to do." She viewed the project as a "case study" for the rest of the country in that other communities could learn how to provide customers with "low-cost, competitive renewable power."
In 2015, McSally co-sponsored the Mexican Wolf Transparency Act, a piece of legislation which seeks to delist the Mexican wolf as an endangered species and halt a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recovery program that aims to reintroduce the wolf to areas in Arizona.
Foreign and defense policyEdit
Politico described her as "hawkish" in 2016. She criticized the international nuclear agreement with Iran and has praised defense contractors. During the House consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016, McSally, along with John McCain, fought to increase military spending, particularly on the Tomahawk missile and other programs of Raytheon Co., which is one of the largest employers in McSally's home state of Arizona. She has been an ardent opponent of the retirement of the A-10 'Warthog', a warplane which has a strong presence at the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base near Tucson. She opposes the budget sequestration's effects on military spending.
McSally has introduced legislation to reduce funding for U.S. military bands. McSally supports the indefinite detentions at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp and opposed President Obama's efforts to close the camp.
McSally is in favor of repealing the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). In May 2014, the Tucson Weekly wrote that "While she has committed to repeal of the ACA, she has yet to put forward a plan for replacement, other than to say that the popular parts of the Affordable Care Act (such as protections for people with pre-existing conditions or allowing adult children to stay on their parents' health insurance until they reach age 26) should be part of any replacement strategy and unpopular elements (such as the mandate to purchase health insurance) should be done away with." In January 2017, she voted for a Republican-sponsored budget resolution that began the process of repealing the Act.
McSally supported the March 2017 version of the American Health Care Act, and voted on May 4, 2017, to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and pass a revised version of the American Health Care Act. Before voting on the bill, she declined to answer questions by reporters on where she stood, saying "I'm not publicly sharing my position". According to the Associated Press, McSally stood up at a GOP conference on the day of the vote and told her colleagues to get this "fucking thing" done. The version of the American Health Care Act that she voted for had not been scored by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office; the previous version of the bill was estimated to cause 24 million Americans to become uninsured by 2026. The revised version of the bill allows states to ask for a waiver that would let insurers to charge individuals with preexisting conditions more. McSally said the bill was "not perfect" but that it was better than the "failed system" of the Affordable Care Act. After the AHCA passed, McSally proposed a stand-alone bill to strike the exemption of Congress from state waiver provisions; it passed by a 429-0 vote and would require 60 votes to pass the U.S. Senate.
In December 2014, McSally criticized President Obama's executive actions on immigration (the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) program), saying that it was "absolutely inappropriate" of Obama to take these actions rather than "allowing the new Congress to sit and try to sort it out." In January 2015, McSally was one of 26 Republicans who voted against an amendment to a spending bill that would end DACA. In September 2017, McSally was one of 10 Republicans who sent a letter to Speaker Paul Ryan asking for a legislative solution for those under DACA status. While criticizing Obama's action in creating the program, the letter said, "It would be wrong to go back on our word and subject these individuals to deportation".
In January 2017, after President Donald Trump issued an executive order suspending the entry of foreigners from seven Muslim-majority countries into the United States, McSally issued a statement saying the U.S. should look at "gaps in our vetting processes" but that she has "concerns about certain individuals being denied entry."
McSally has said that "Philosophically, I believe marriage is between one man and one woman, and it should be left to the states." After the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which upheld a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, McSally said that she would "respect the Supreme Court's decision" but expressed the view that "this debate belongs at the state level."
She has declined to take a position on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would bar employers with more than 15 employees from engaging in employment discrimination on the basis of an "actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity." However, during her 2010 campaign, McSally indicated on a Center for Arizona Policy questionnaire that she opposes such additions to anti-discrimination law.
In May 2016, McSally voted for a bill that would have dismantled Obama's executive action that made it illegal for government contractors to discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation. The Human Rights Campaign, a LGBT civil rights advocacy group, criticized her for her vote. During the 114th Congress, the Human Rights Campaign gave her a score of 48%.
She appeared on national television in October 2012 saying, "You want to talk about a war on women? Walk in my shoes down the streets of Kabul. Walk in my shoes down the streets of Riyadh; where women have to be covered up. Where they're stoned, where they’re honor killed if they’ve been raped, where they can’t drive and they can’t travel without the permission of a male relative. That’s a war on women."
McSally voted in favor of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. She cited the need for tax reform and her belief that the act will "put our economy into afterburner." She discounted polls showing the bill as being unpopular among voters, calling it "hysteria" and "misinformation" and saying that "the best counter to that is when people see money in their paychecks."
2018 U.S. Senate campaignEdit
On January 12, 2018, McSally announced that she would be running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by the retirement of U.S. Senator Jeff Flake. McSally announced her campaign in Tucson, then flew to Phoenix and Prescott for subsequent campaign announcement rallies. An online video announcing McSally's campaign featured her telling Washington D.C. Republicans "to grow a pair of ovaries." The announcement represented a "sharp right turn" from McSally's centrist reputation.
McSally is expected to run as the establishment conservative in the Republican primary, where her declared opponents include former State Senator Kelli Ward and former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. McSally, a strong fundraiser, is the preferred candidate of national Republicans and Arizona Governor Doug Ducey. McSally's history of criticizing President Donald Trump has drawn rebuke from conservative groups including the Club for Growth, the Senate Conservatives Fund, and FreedomWorks. McSally has historically maintained some distance from Trump, choosing not to endorse him in 2016 and calling his comments about sexual assault "disgusting" and "unacceptable." In the lead-up to announcing her candidacy for the U.S. Senate, McSally began to embrace Trump, running advertising campaigns echoing his conservative immigration policy positions. Politico wrote: "Martha McSally wants to make one thing clear before she launches an Arizona Senate campaign: She's a big fan of President Donald Trump."
|Libertarian||Anthony Powell (Write-In)||57||0%||-4.05%|
|Democratic||Ron Barber (incumbent)||109,543||49.73%||-0.68%|
|Republican gain from Democratic||Swing|
|Republican||Martha McSally (incumbent)||150,103||56.7%||+6.89%|
In April 2018, a Tucson man was sentenced to 15 months in prison for threatening to assault and kill McSally.
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- "STATE OF ARIZONA OFFICIAL CANVASS" (PDF). azsos.gov. December 3, 2012. Archived from the original (PDF) on December 24, 2012. Retrieved January 4, 2013.
- "Unofficial Results Primary Election". Arizona Secretary of State. Archived from the original on October 2, 2014. Retrieved August 28, 2014.
- "Case L5373439". Arizona Superior Court in Pima County. 1997-03-22. Retrieved 2016-10-27.
- Powers Hannley, Pamela (2012-10-31). "'Sham' Marriage Allegations Arise Against Arizona Congressional Candidate Col. Martha McSally". Huffington Post. Retrieved November 4, 2012.
- Prendergast, Curt (April 18, 2018). "Tucson man gets 15 months in prison for threatening U.S. Rep. Martha McSally". Arizona Daily Star. Retrieved 19 April 2018.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Martha McSally.|
- U.S. Representative Martha McSally, official U.S. House website
- Martha McSally for Senate official website
- Appearances on C-SPAN
- Women in Combat, policy change briefing by SecDef Les Aspin, April 28, 1993 (C-SPAN video, forward to 33 minute point)
- Biography at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- Profile at Project Vote Smart
- Financial information (federal office) at the Federal Election Commission
- Legislation sponsored at the Library of Congress
- Martha McSally speaking on campaign trail in Sierra Vista March 2012
- Profile, ctie.monash.edu.au; accessed November 8, 2014
|U.S. House of Representatives|
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Arizona's 2nd congressional district
|Current U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)|
| United States Representatives by seniority