WASHINGTON — Sen. Martha McSally said Tuesday that her unsuccessful Senate run in 2018 came down to one major factor: She ran out of time.
“We didn’t get a chance for (voters) to get to know me, what I’ve done all my life, what I did in the House,” the Arizona Republican, a former fighter pilot, told reporters Tuesday. “We were very aware of these challenges at the time but we kind of ran out of airspeed and altitude. And we weren’t defined and resilient enough.”
After losing to Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema by 2 percentage points in 2018, McSally was appointed to the Senate. She is serving in the seat left vacant by the late GOP Sen. John McCain, and is running in 2020 to serve the last two years of McCain’s term.
McSally won a divisive primary in late August 2018 and had a short window to shift to a general election. Arizonans, who largely vote by mail, can begin mailing ballots in early October. McSally said she was largely unknown in the Phoenix area, which is the state’s largest media market, after having representing a House district based in Tucson.
McSally met with women reporters near the Capitol at a lunch organized by Winning for Women, which supports GOP women running for office.
The Air Force veteran pointed to her previous House campaigns when discussing her strategy for the 2020 Senate race. She narrowly lost a special election in 2012 in the 2nd District, which opened up when Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords resigned after being seriously injured in a shooting at a constituent event. McSally now faces Giffords’ husband, Navy veteran and former astronaut Mark Kelly, in the Senate race.
McSally then won the 2nd District in 2014 by fewer than 200 votes and went on to win reelection in 2016 by 14 points.
“The main reason that happened is because I did a good job, not because I immediately started campaigning,” McSally said of her 2016 win after such close races.
“So my approach is: Do a good job. Be a good senator. I’m mindful of the swirl that’s going on around me, but just like when I’m flying my A-10, I’m ignoring it and I’m doing my job,” she said.
Sinema did have the election — and the airwaves — to herself as McSally fought through the primary. That meant Sinema was able to craft a message early on that she would be a moderate and independent-minded senator. Democrats also contend that McSally didn’t just run out of time, but rather that Arizona voters rejected McSally because of her support for the GOP effort to repeal much of the Affordable Care Act.
McSally is a top Democratic target in 2020, running in a state that President Donald Trump carried by 4 points in 2016. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race a Toss-Up.
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PHOTO (for help with images, contact 312-222-4194): McSally