In the crowded race to be Tucson’s Congresswoman, Mary Matiella stands out as the candidate who has experience in the federal government, a personal story of succeeding against big odds and a relatable presence that appeals to voters.
Experience, accessibility, and personality are the primary reasons she can beat incumbent train wreck, Rep. Martha McSally, but there are actually 8 good reasons:
1. Matiella’s positions are well fleshed out, favoring progressive ideas like Medicare for all and debt-free higher education, along with centrist positions like creating jobs by rebuilding infrastructure and eliminating waste in government. And she is “100% against the border wall.”
She bills herself as an unapologetic progressive candidate, but adds, “I’m not too liberal for the congressional district. Everything that I believe in has resonated with the vast majority of the people. I’m pretty well in line with the Democratic constituents here in the district. The folks I would like to swing over to our side are the independents — that’s one-third of the voters.”
In contrast, McSally avoids taking a stand on most issues. But McSally’s votes betray her right-wing positions, as she voted to repeal Obamacare, voted to cut funding for Planned Parenthood, and voted 95% in line with the Trump position.
2. Matiella has attracted key endorsements from US Rep. Raúl Grijalva, the progressive PAC Democracy for America, Pima County Supervisors Sharon Bronson and Richard Elias, Tucson City Council members Regina Romero and Paul Cunningham and TUSD Board member Adelita Grijalva.
In contrast, McSally is endorsed by the anti-worker US Chamber of Commerce, anti-abortion groups, construction lobbies, and dark-money Koch brothers fronts like “Americans for Prosperity.”
3. She chose a savvy campaign chairman in Bill Roe, the First Vice Chairman (and former chairman) of the state Democratic party. This is important because Matiella is new to elected political office. “Mary is head and shoulders above the other candidates,” Roe said. “She is knowledgeable, has an unassuming nature and relates well to people.”
He is a formidable fundraiser and donor. He and his wife supported Democratic candidates and causes with $490,000 in 2012, and gave about $290,000 to Democrats and Democratic causes during the 2014 cycle. Roe was a superdelegate to the 2016 Democratic National Convention from Arizona.
4. She certainly has the federal management chops, with 34 years in the federal government, serving as:
- Assistant Secretary of the Army for financial management, appointed by President Obama. She monitored a $240 billion budget that funded 1 million soldiers. “I’ve had huge responsibilities that not many other people have,” she says.
- Assistant CFO at Housing and Urban Development.
- CFO for the US Forest Service.
“Career politicians talk a lot about eliminating waste, fraud, and abuse,” she says. “I’ve actually done it. I didn’t just talk about examining budgets and rooting out waste to save taxpayers’ money, it was my job.”
5. Her personal story is compelling. She grew up as one of six children of migrant workers in Marana. Overcoming the odds, today she has a Ph.D. in Education from George Washington University, and an MBA and BA from the University of Arizona.
“This country allowed a Hispanic woman, a Latina, to go from the cotton fields in Marana to become a business leader,” she told the crowd at a recent fundraiser. “That experience is something I want to keep in the country. This country needs people like me to have the opportunity to succeed.”
“I’ve never lost sight of how I grew up and what it took for me to succeed. I had a lot of help, a college education for $200, a federal fellowship to go graduate school, free medical care while we were in the military,” she says. “I will fight for those social programs that enable people to succeed and move up.”
6. Matiella is accessible to voters, and is easy to find and talk to. The first plank of her platform is about constituent communications. “Elected representatives must listen to their constituents and be responsive to their concerns, not hide their positions from them. I am committed to open communication with my constituents,” she says.
In contrast, McSally knows she is unpopular in Tucson and avoids meeting voters in public. For example, in August she charged $60 to $100 to see her at business or Republican meetings. She makes closely-controlled private visits to groups in Tucson and has never held a free, public town hall in the city. Instead she holds “telephone town halls” where callers are screened.
The scuttlebutt says that McSally is hoping Trump will appoint her to a Defense Department job, so she won’t have to face voters at all.
7. Regarding the military, Matiella makes sense. She favors a balance between the defense budget — which accounts for 54% of the entire federal budget.
“One year of debt-free college education costs $35 billion. That’s one line in the defense department budget,” she says. “If we look hard enough we can get a lot of things done, if we use our tax dollars wisely and hold government agencies accountable.”
She favors fully funding and expanding VA operations, including streamlining the process for claims and compensation. “I’m sick of politicians who march in parades on Sunday and vote to gut the VA on Monday,” she says.
Matiella actually outranked McSally, who was an Air Force colonel. As a civilian employee in the defense department, a person also gets a military rank. For Matiella, she was making decisions that a four-star general did.
McSally claims falsely that she saved the antiquated A-10 airplane, the anchor of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. “The Army saved the A-10,” Roe says. “The Air Force didn’t defend it.” In fact, the Air Force has been trying to retire the A-10, a relic of the 1970s. “We must find a new use for the air base, perhaps with a drone mission,” Roe says.
8. Tucson is her home town. “I’m a local girl. I grew up here. I understand this culture,” she says. “I’ve had a successful career but have never forgotten that Tucson is my home. This is the place I love, where my parents, brothers and sisters live.”