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McSally Shatters 'War on Women' Image in Ariz. House Race

Image: McSally Shatters 'War on Women' Image in Ariz. House Race

By Melissa Clyne   |   Tuesday, 22 Apr 2014 08:25 AM

Martha McSally, a Republican challenging Democratic Rep. Ron Barber for his Arizona House seat, is shattering the Democrats’ national narrative that the GOP is anti-woman, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Retired Air Force Col. McSally, 48, is the United States’ first female fighter pilot to fly in combat. She has described herself as “a woman warrior.”

“I’ve been fighting for women’s rights and women’s equality my whole life,” she said during her 2012 run to unseat Barber, who beat McSally by less than 1 percentage point. “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.”

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Barber was former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ district director, until she resigned after being shot in the head during a 2011 public meeting with constituents at a Tucson grocery store. Barber was shot in the face and leg during the attack.

Following Giffords’ January 2012 resignation, Barber won a special election to complete her unfinished term.

Republican leaders believe McSally represents a paragon of how the party supports women as well as one of its best chances to rebut the Democrats’ characterization of the party as anti-woman by casting them as anti-abortion and against pay equity. GOP operatives would like other candidates to follow McSally’s lead, according to the Journal.

McSally in 2001 successfully sued the Department of Defense, challenging the military’s then-policy requiring servicewomen stationed in Saudi Arabia to wear the body-covering abaya when traveling off base in the country. Congress later approved legislation prohibiting the practice as well as using taxpayer money to buy the body-covering garb. In 2011, McSally penned an op-ed in The Washington Post critical of the military for continuing to encourage female service members to wear head scarves in Afghanistan.

On a Department of Defense website article from 2006, McSally said she hopes she’s a role model to men and women “because we are a fighting force and should not be concerned with differences between us.”

Having women messengers – and candidates – helps Republicans impart the message that the party supports women, Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway told the Journal.

“Messengers matter,” she said. “I think it rings hollow to say a woman candidate is out of touch with women.”

In McSally’s case, it appears to be working. She outraised Barber $441,105 to $422,799 in the first quarter of the 2014, according to The Arizona Star, noting that that McSally has raised more than $1.2 million since announcing last year that she would challenge Barber for a second time. She currently has $847,142 cash on hand. Barber has $1.2 million cash on hand.

National Republican Congressional Committee Spokesman Daniel Scarpinato told the Star that McSally’s cash haul in the last fiscal cycle was the highest in the country for a Republican challenger.

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