Jan 12, 2018, 4:21 PM ET

Combat fighter pilot joins competitive Arizona Senate race

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Arizona Rep. Martha McSally officially announced her campaign for U.S. Senate today, entering a competitive Republican primary that includes controversial former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and former State Sen. Kelli Ward.

McSally, a retired Air Force colonel who was the first female fighter pilot to fly in combat, officially launched her campaign in Tucson by flying in on a World War II-era fighter plane.

"We are in a crucial time for our country. The security of the United States, and so much else, will be on the line in these coming years. It's a time of big and defining choices," McSally told the crowd after she'd safely landed. "I recently made one myself, and I wanted my friends in Tucson to be the first to know. As of today, I am a candidate for the office of United States senator from Arizona."

PHOTO: Rep. Martha McSally speaks at a rally, Friday, Jan. 12, 2018, in Tucson, Ariz.Rick Scuteri/AP
Rep. Martha McSally speaks at a rally, Friday, Jan. 12, 2018, in Tucson, Ariz.

Earlier today, McSally released a video announcing her campaign that emphasized both her military background and her relationship with President Donald Trump.

Trump can be seen in McSally's announcement video praising her as "the real deal" and "tough."

McSally also compared her own political style to the president, saying in her announcement video, "Like our president, I’m tired of PC politicians and their BS excuses. I’m a fighter pilot, and I talk like one. That's why I told Washington Republicans to grow a pair of ovaries and get the job done.”

The race to succeed sitting Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., who announced last year that he is not seeking re-election, is seen as key to Republican hopes of holding on to their slim 51-49 majority in the U.S. Senate.

Both Arpaio -- an immigration hard-liner who was last August was pardoned by Trump after he was convicted of criminal contempt of court -- and Ward have attempted to portray themselves as the true Trump loyalists in the race.

Ward's campaign released a new ad on social media following McSally's announcement attempting to paint her as the candidate of the Washington establishment.

“Martha McSally is Jeff Flake 2.0 and part of the Washington establishment that has failed Arizona for years,” said Ward campaign chair Ed Rollins. “She opposed Donald Trump as a candidate and has undermined him as president, which is why leading conservatives are rejecting McSally and are lining up behind a true reformer in Dr. Kelli Ward.”

Whoever wins the race is expected to face Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., who has the backing of many national Democrats and has over $5.1 million in her campaign war chest, according to a release from her campaign sent out Thursday.

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  • Thomas Spengler

    Defend Arizona PAC is pumping big money into McSally while spreading lies about Dr. Kelli Ward. Follow the money. The PAC’s biggest donor is a Never Trumper from San Francisco who also supported Obama and Feinstein. AZ, don’t be fooled.

  • Thomas

    If she retired from the USAF in 2010, why is she giving a speech in 2018 wearing a bag?

  • Jim

    Joe Arpaiohas this one bagged like butter. Easy win.

  • Morgan Sheridan

    She's aligned herself with Trump? Then no damn way.

  • Expert

    A 'Women For Trump' voter in the senate. I will never vote republican again.

  • Prophet With Honor

    In the primary she will split the female vote which will allow Felonius Joe to be the nominee. In the general the female vote will go to the Democrat. Win-Win.

  • Michael Reffone

    " .. flying in on a World War II-era fighter plane .. " This is not a fighter plane. It looks like a T-6 trainer.

  • Ronald Bandor

    She pulls up in a plane. Cheesy.
    And I thought you weren't supposed to wear your military uniform to political events? Does a flight suit not count as a uniform?

  • david

    Why can't I get that image out of my head from a few years back of that crazy NASA woman that traveled cross country with a diaper on to confront her romantic rival???

  • Quantez Williams

    Wait a minute! She's a combat fighter pilot, but didn't even fly the plane to this event?

  • Rafterman00

    Be wary, colonel. Chump praised Hillary at first too.

  • KRJ

    I'll be voting Democrat in this one. She's a total ultra right wing nut job. I live in AZ and if she weren't running for the senate, she would loose her job in the house

  • PackRatFan

    I will have no problem supporting her. The one person in this bunch who I will have a total problem supporting is Arpaio. One of my biggest complaints about many politicians is that they don't know when to quite and at 85 y/o Arpaio falls smack dab into that category! He is a complete and utter fool to think he has any chance. Pathetic!

  • TexasVulcan

    She seems like a very reasonable Republican. She will be labeled "RINO".

  • Bomber

    Ms. McSally, You are NOT a fighter pilot as you flew a A-10 Warthog. The A-10 is an ATTACK aircraft and NOT a fighter aircraft - two totally different types of aircraft. I am not trying yo diminish your service but as a LtCol you should know what the Hell you are are talking about. As a 50 year resident of Arizona and as a former active duty Marine Vietnam veteran, it troubles me that you are using the same tried & tired tactics as John McCain. He stopped being a 'hero' after he left North Vietnam on that C-141 and landed back in the States. Your conduct regarding your wife when you returned is deplorable. You're no hero - you're an opportunist. The cancer you contracted could easily be seen as 'pay back' for your conduct beginning in 1973.

  • Sonora Nomad

    McSally is a partisan toady...and votes party line every single time to prove it. She is a failure as Congressional Dist 2 rep and if elected senator will carry that same incompetence and blind party-line obedience into the Senate. No thanks.

    There is a far better choice for senator....Krysten Sinema.

  • Prophet With Honor

    Thus splitting the female vote and handing it to crazy Joe and eventually to the female Democrat.

  • Berserker

    Excellent news.