With Republicans almost sure to win the runoff races for two House districts in Louisiana on Saturday, Arizona’s 2nd District is the site of the last lower chamber race of 2014 to be undecided – and the closest House race in the nation.
As of Thursday, Republican challenger Martha McSally led Democratic Rep. Ron Barber by a wafer-thin 161 votes out of more than 250,000 cast. The automatic recount in the 15-county district is expected to be completed by December 16.
Should these figures hold up and retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Mc Sally emerge triumphant, she will have made history. Along with being the Grand Canyon State’s first female Republican U.S. Representative, McSally, 48, will also become the first woman combat pilot to serve in Congress.
A graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy who also placed first in her class at the Air War College. McSally became the first woman to fly in combat after the ban was lifted on women combat pilots in 1991 when she flew A-10 fighter air craft over Iraq and Kuwait.
"Martha should hold on, win, and reverse the results of '12," former State Republican Chairman Randy Pullen told Newsmax, recalling the contest two years ago in which McSally edged Barber by a few hundred votes but wound up losing by more than 1,400 votes after all the provisional ballots were counted, "This time, all votes — early, absentee, and provisional — have been counted."
Barber and the 2nd District have special significance for Democrats in Arizona and nationwide. In ’06, Gabrielle "Gabby" Giffords became the district’s first Democratic Member of Congress and, a week after being sworn in for a third term in January of 2011, she was seriously wounded in a shooting in Tucson where she was meeting constituents.
Giffords eventually resigned from Congress to seek further medical rehabilitation and was succeeded by top aide Barber (who was also wounded in the Tucson shooting).
"Martha lost a primary to run in the special election to succeed Giffords and then lost that squeaker two years ago," said Pullen, "But she made it this time because she ran a better campaign and made no mistakes. She was completely focused — like Paul Newman in the movie 'Cool Hand Luke.'"
There was nothing that stood out about the second contest between McSally and Barber or made it different from that of most other House races this year. The Republican challenger called for repealing and replacing Obamacare, took a hard line against illegal immigration, and ran as a strong anti-tax conservative. Democrat Barber has voted consistently against repealing Obamacare, supports the pro-illegal immigration "DREAM Act," and is a vigorous backer of gun control legislation.
What may have made the difference between 2012 and ’14, explained Pullen, "is that the Republicans had a strong get-out-vote effort, won every statewide office, and majorities in both houses of the legislature. It was the second best Republican year in Arizona history."
National Republicans are taking no chances in the recount and a letter from McSally’s fellow veteran, Sen.-elect Joni Ernst (R.-Iowa), recently went out to national GOP donors urging funds for the Arizonan’s legal costs in the recount.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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