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McSally focuses on national security in Senate bid

National security, particularly the security of the U.S.-Mexico border, is the top issue U.S. Rep. Martha McSally hears about on the campaign trail, regardless of a person's party affiliation, the Republican candidate said.

Experience as chair of the House Border and Maritime Security Subcommittee has given her the chance to work closely with President Donald Trump’s on the country's border security efforts, she said. She hopes to take that role to the U.S. Senate.

McSally, who represents Southeastern Arizona, is running against Democratic U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema in a tight race.

But to her, the key to national security is to understand what the military requires, McSally said. She noted that fewer than 100 people in Congress have served in the armed forces.

“I know firsthand what our military needs in order to keep us safe,” said McSally, spent 22 years as an Air Force fighter pilot and was the first woman to command a fighter squadron.

“The Senate gives you a bigger platform to be a leader on national security and international security, but as a veteran, I also know specifically (that) we need to be fighting for the equipment, the training (and) the readiness crisis, which we’re starting to turn around,” McSally said.

The country needs to prepare for “future threats and future capabilities,” listing nuclear deterrents, a space program and cybersecurity under that theme, she said.

Fly, fight, win

Valuing “country-first, service before self, integrity first” has specifically helped her focus on getting things done in the House, she said.

She expressed pride in having sponsored 20 bills that passed the House, two of which were signed into law.

“That sort of ‘no-nonsense, action-oriented, results-oriented’ mindset, in the midst of kind of a crazy Washington, D.C., environment,” motivates her, McSally said. She said still gets up every day and asks, “How do I get the mission done?”

McSally said her “deployment mode” helps as she campaigns for the Senate seat, which she said a lot of other candidates have not experienced.

“I have a lifetime of having to go seven days a week, for long periods of time for long hours,” she said. “To be able to function well and think straight and take care of yourself and don’t get sick. All of that experience in the military helps me right now. You can’t do it forever, but you can do it for pretty long periods of time because you just train yourself to, so I’m taking that same approach.”

McSally draws a contrast between herself and Sinema who she says is devoted to “radical-left activist stuff.”

“You spend your life giving your passion and your leadership to something, look at that contrast, and then ask yourself, ‘Which is better lined up to who represents Arizona’s values?’ Because the contrast is pretty clear.”

The economy, colonel ...

Protecting an economy that is "on fire right now," is also a high priority for her campaign, McSally said.

“It’s more about jobs, opportunity,” McSally said. “You work hard, you can get ahead, you can provide for your family, get a pay raise, bring an idea to market, start your own business, have your kids move out of the house after they graduate from college to get a good job, and save for retirement.”

That issue also cuts across party lines.

What is a personal challenge you feel you need to overcome?

The personal challenge she needs to overcome is the clock that limits her agreeableness to normal waking hours.

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“There’s only so much time in the day, and nobody wants to meet with me between midnight and 5 a.m.,” McSally said. “The challenge that we all have is that I can only be in one place at one time.”

The dual life of the campaign trail and congressional session swallowed up her weeks and left a growing to-do list at home.

“There are things breaking around my house right now that I’m going to have to just fix after Election Day because I don’t have time,” McSally said. “I just literally don’t have time to do hardly anything.”

When asked what app she couldn't do without, she mentioned Wunderlist, which allows users to manage their tasks in the virtual cloud and access them from a number of devices.

“We use it amongst us (on the campaign), but I use it for just things I need to do, things I need to shop for, things I need to fix in my house – and the list keeps getting longer because I don’t have time,” McSally said. “But it allows me to, if I’m out running and I think of something, I can put it on there and I know I don’t have to remember it later. That brings order to my tasks.”

A quote that guides her

McSally said she has long called on the second part of the Bible verse Esther 4:14.

"For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

McSally said she's reluctant to compare herself to the biblical figure but said, “she was in a situation where she was given an opportunity and she had to take some risks and, when she was making her decision, this was the advice she was given. At many of the decision points in my life, to include running for Congress and now running for the Senate, it has been something that has inspired me and propelled me to action.”

TucsonSentinel.com's original reporting and curation of border and immigration news is generously supported in part by a grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.

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Alex Kline/Arizona PBS

Rep. Martha McSally is the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Republican Jeff Flake, who’s retiring.