Republican Martha McSally thought she had won a seat in Congress two years ago. Before all the votes were counted in her race against Democratic incumbent Ron Barber, McSally jetted off to Washington, D.C., for freshman orientation.
But once all those votes were counted, McSally instead had to concede to Barber. But the narrow margin of the win—roughly 2,500 votes—has McSally looking for a rematch this year.
Although Republicans have a slight voter-registration edge, Southern Arizona’s Congressional District 2 is split more or less in thirds between GOP, Democratic and independent voters, making it one of the most competitive in the country. Already, outside groups such as the National Republican Congressional Committee and Americans for Prosperity are aiming to knock Barber out, while the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the House Majority PAC are working to keep Barber in office.
The McSally campaign has released a poll showing her with a minor lead; the Barber campaign has released a poll showing him with a minor lead.
A retired A-10 pilot and squadron leader, McSally has focused her campaign on Barber. She complains that he is too supportive of Obamacare and hasn’t done enough to secure the border—and is raising an astounding amount of money.
McSally has outraised Barber in every fundraising quarter of the last year and collected more than $650,000 in the most recent quarter. Her finance reports show she had raised a total of $1.8 million for her campaign and still had more than $1.1 million in the bank.
By contrast, Barber—who raised about $550,000 in the most recent quarter—had raised $2.1 for his campaign and still had more than $1.5 million as of June 30.
McSally has faced criticism that she won’t take stands on tough issues and avoids the press. She won’t say, for example, whether she believes undocumented immigrants now in the United States should be deported to their home countries or allowed to remain as long as they can pass background checks and pay fines and back taxes; and while she opposes the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, she has yet to offer an alternative proposal for healthcare reform.
While she is already on the attack against Barber, McSally has a Republican primary against businesswoman Shelley Kais and Air Force veteran Chuck Wooten.
Kais acknowledged that she was facing a tough fight to defeat McSally. She had only raised $33,000 for her campaign as of June 30 and won’t have the resources for a major TV blitz to build her name ID.
But Kais, who worked on McSally’s campaign in the 2012 special congressional election to complete Gabrielle Giffords’ term, said she believes she is the better candidate.
“I understand financial management,” Kais said. “I understand the appropriations process. I know what’s going on in federal government agencies. I’m a great thinker. I can find solutions.”
Kais would prefer to repeal the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, but she doesn’t believe that’s likely to happen while the Democrats control the White House.
“The solution is to try to fix it, to begin to fund it so it works for people,” said Kais, who would like to see fewer mandates in insurance policies and opposes a requirement that people purchase insurance, although she supports the ACA’s prohibition against discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions.
Kais wants more border security and said she’s more inclined to require undocumented immigrants now in the U.S. to be deported back to their home country rather than remain in America if they can pass background checks and pay fines and back taxes. However, she said she might be willing to accept a version of the DREAM Act, particularly if young people serve in the military. “We are not insensitive people,” she said.
Kais said she would vote in favor of impeachment of President Barack Obama, but added that it would have little chance of resulting in conviction in the U.S. Senate. McSally said she does not support impeachment of Obama but does support House Speaker John Boehner’s lawsuit against the administration because it delayed the mandate that small employers provide workers with health insurance.
The Wooten campaign did not respond to repeated requests for an interview from Tucson Local Media, but Wooten has raised only $27,000 and had only $3,400 left to spend as of June 30.