I have been a Republican my entire adult life, I was an active duty military officer and am a combat veteran and I, like many were fooled into believing that the GOP cared about veterans, fiscal stewardship of our military and, yes, I was even fooled into thinking they cared about women and minorities. Fox News and Right-Wing Talk Radio is quite the strong narcotic. But on the night Trump was nominated by the GOP, I had enough, I left the Republican Party the next day, and I never looked back, and I never will. I am a Democrat now, and while this political party is not perfect, it is not the toxic brew of hate bigotry and misogyny that the GOP has morphed into – with zero pushback from virtually all of its members.
When Democrat, Kyrsten Sinema announced she was going to run for Jeff Flake’s Senate seat, I was all in. I immediately volunteered in any way I could. I texted thousands of Arizonans, wrote articles, and helped tell her story to Arizona veterans. As a Tucson native, combat veteran and the spouse of an active duty military member – I wanted the voice of vets like me to be heard. I wanted to help Sinema win this seat and make sure that Martha McSally and her Trumpist rhetoric lost not only her Congressional seat in Tucson, but this coveted Arizona Senate seat as well.
I will admit that there were times when I thought Sinema was not going to pull it off. I thought McSally is more aggressive, fighting harder, and Sinema won’t fight back…not really. I mean I got what Sinema’s campaign was doing – staying disciplined, sticking to her message and choosing optimism. But I really thought she lost on election night – I went to bed thinking it was over. And even in the days that followed, I thought she just wouldn’t pull it off. The wait to count the vote, which by the way was handled with the utmost transparency, calm, and professionalism by our governor and County Recorders, was excruciating. I finally just put the phone down and would only hit refresh on the vote count twice a day.
I was wrong…thankfully so wrong. We did it, she did it – she won outright, and for the first time since 1976, Arizona has a Democratic Senator, and that Senator is a woman. I sincerely have a glimmer of hope for the first time since Trump was elected. How did Senator-Elect Kyrsten Sinema win? What did Martha McSally, a strong candidate by any measure, and decorated fighter pilot with a Harvard education, do wrong? Here are 8 darn good reasons I believe Martha McSally lost.
McSally hit the “eject” button in rough skies
McSally has said herself she is a “tough fighter pilot” and “talks that way too” – after all she wanted to just get the “fucking thing done” when referring to the vote to repeal health care in Congress last year. McSally’s nature is to fight – but really only in areas where she feels she has the upper hand. After being shunned in her former congressional district in Tucson (where she refused to hold a town hall in almost two years), she refused to campaign there at all. In fact, she hid from many areas in Arizona – simply because she did not feel 100% welcome. She only agreed to debate Sinema one time, and even that decision took her campaign months. For all her bluster and flaunting her military rank on her campaign website, she is the one who lacked courage when it counted, not Sinema.
McSally was negative all the time, 24/7
As a political junkie, I appreciate scorching ads, ones that do quick and real damage – I do. But that is literally all we got from McSally. A candidate needs to appeal to people’s hopes and dreams as well, and Arizonans have plenty of hopes and dreams. Every time she spoke or ran an ad it was doom and gloom. And maybe while Midwesterners who have little interaction with immigrants believe that an invasion is coming, Arizonans know different. The border and its vast area is not doom and gloom – and that is quite literally all McSally rattled on about. The scary border and the scary immigrants.
McSally just did not know Arizona
Folks, McSally was raised and spent her entire young life in Rhode Island. It was not until she retired from the Air Force, at Davis Monthan AFB in Tucson, that she made Tucson her home. I genuinely believe that she just did not fully grasp Arizona’s independent streak. We are a state filled with many immigrants, first-generation Americans, suburbanites, soccer moms, people of both sides of the aisle that absolutely love our desert environment and want desperately to protect it, a decent amount of tech workers, lots of doctors and a booming health industry, tons of college kids, a lot of optimistic and kind Mormons, a large and vibrant Jewish population, California transplants who arrive by the hour, and yes, some ranchers. It is now strangely apparent that McSally thought there were quite a bit more ranchers than really exist. Her politics and her message were always dark and always small – maybe that works where she is from sometimes, but out West we do not respond to dark and small – we are the exact opposite.
The MAGA crowd was not enthusiastic about McSally
Arizona conservatives really don’t like McCain of Flake. They mockingly call them “RINOS” – fake conservatives. McSally has always been very similar to McCain and Flake in their minds – not a real conservative. They loved Kelli Ward and I might be inclined to believe that if Ward had won that Republican primary, she might have taken this senate seat – who knows. But I do maintain that many Trumpers just stayed home. McSally was too much like McCain for them – they could see through her fake Trump cheerleading veneer. Conservatives love authenticity and McSally had close to zero. On top of that, McSally is a woman, and at the end of the day these hard-core conservative Trump loyalists are just a little sexist…even a fighter pilot couldn’t get many of them off their couch on election day.
Maricopa County knew Sinema and they liked her.
For a candidate to win Arizona, they have to dominate in Maricopa county. Sinema did. Phoenicians know who Sinema is and McSally did very little to increase her name recognition in Phoenix and all of its suburbs. Simply put, Sinema squeezed every single vote out of Maricopa county that was humanly possible and McSally chose to campaign in the rural areas of our state instead. Interestingly exit poll data shows us that many Republicans voted for Republican Governor Ducey, but not McSally. This one statistic is very telling – Arizonans wanted to send a Democrat to the Senate who would slow Trumps chaos, bring healthcare to Arizona, help to pass immigration reform, and protect our environment. Further, I will go out on a limb and say that many Arizonans, like many in our nation are sick of the weekly public executions of our citizens – they are sick of being terrified to send their kids to school – and that a part of their vote for Sinema was based on sensible gun regulation.
Indivisible and Resist
Indivisible has chapters in every single congressional district in our nation, sometimes 2 chapters in one congressional district. Indivisible is tremendously organized, truly grass roots, and possesses a flexibility and quick reaction rate that is lethal. The indivisible chapters in Tucson, all of Phoenix, its suburbs, and even in rural Arizona fired up their newly built race car and took it for a drive. One other note on Indivisible, this organization often intersects with other Resist groups, immigration activist groups, environmental groups, feminist groups – these groups are like orbiting satellites around the massive planet of Indivisible – all hurling ahead with one clear goal – stop Trump. Indivisible’s organization and GOTV effort paid off in Arizona and it paid off big. Their slick and effective digital campaign combined with a diligent ground game is largely responsible for Sinema’s historic win.
One would think that McSally would have this demographic wrapped up. But when one looks closer that is just not true. Many veterans from Arizona are not white men. Many are first, or second-generation Mexicans, and many veterans in our state are Native Americans. Sinema worked her butt off to appeal to veterans, all veterans in all areas of our state. When McSally tried to pin the “unpatriotic” label on Sinema it just didn’t stick – this accusation was wholly unbelievable. Sinema has two brothers who served and she speaks to many of the real issues that affect veterans in their everyday lives. Even if out of her comfort zone, she went to veterans and she talked to them every single day – and she appealed to them. Even her opposition to the Iraq war is something many veterans agree with her on. It was never believable that Sinema was not a proud American.
Sinema was the right candidate in the right state.
Sinema has a remarkable story. Her story of moving from abject poverty to the U.S. Congress is one that impresses even those on the far right. She literally came from nothing, from zero, from being homeless – to becoming a U.S. Congresswoman. She methodically just puts one foot in front of the other and gets things done. I think Arizonans were craving this kind of local – maybe even a little boring – leader. Maybe we have had enough of the celebrity senators for a while. Would a far-left candidate have won in Arizona? Maybe, but not likely. Sinema is a moderate. Her voting record in Congress shows this. She is literally no drama, a total pragmatist and unlike McCain or McSally as local as they come. Arizonans knew she would not end up a national senator from Arizona. In the end her moderate voting record and calm and positive demeanor appealed to the independents, who – let’s face it – decide elections in Arizona.
As a former Republican It was a remarkable and nerve-wracking thing to watch Arizona turn from red to blue. Yes, I am now a Democrat, but I have not always been. I have been on the other side, and I can tell you that the drug of Fox News that our citizens are mainlining is powerful. But it is not unstoppable or unchangeable. If we are disciplined, realistic about each state’s demographics, get things done, have the better argument and better idea we will win. Sinema had all these things and she won.