Tucsonan Mary Matiella, center, a retired Assistant Secretary of the Army, works the room at a meeting of Democrats of Greater Tucson at Dragon’s View Chinese restaurant on Monday, June 19, 2017. She is throwing her hat into the ring seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination for Arizona’s Second Congressional District Seat.

A retired assistant secretary of the Army wants to challenge Republican U.S. Rep. Martha McSally for the Arizona Congressional District 2 seat.

Mary Matiella, a native of Southern Arizona, made her announcement during the weekly Democrats of Greater Tucson meeting, telling the audience she was the best candidate to face McSally next year in the November general election.

As a civilian, Matiella has been the director of accounting service for the Air Force in California, worked as the undersecretary of defense in the Pentagon as well as the chief financial officer for the U.S. Forest Service.

“My work and leadership focus has always been that the taxpayer’s dollar is well accounted for. Other people may talk about cutting waste and transparency — I can tell you not only do I understand these tasks from first-hand experience, but I have the skills and drive to ensure that the people of the second congressional district have a knowledgeable advocate on their side representing their interests,” she said.

During her speech, Matiella sought to undermine one of McSally’s chief accomplishments since taking office in 2014 — her front-line role in helping to keep the A-10 Thunderbolt II planes flying. The A-10 is a mainstay of operations at Tucson’s Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

McSally, along with Arizona Sen. John McCain, fought to stave off military budget cuts that threatened to ground the A-10s permanently.

Matiella told a room full of party supporters — including U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijlava — that it was the Army that saved the plane. She argued the support from the Army leadership was what kept the A-10 flying, with generals telling members of Congress they needed the close-air support fighter to protect troops.

Matiella has her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration from the University of Arizona and got her doctorate from George Washington University.

Matiella enters a packed field of Democrats seeking the party’s nomination next year — at least eight Democrats who have either announced they are running or are testing the waters in what will likely be a crowded primary.

They are: emergency room doctor Matt Heinz, small-business owner Billy Kovacs, geologist Alison Jones, pilot Jeff Latas, small-business owner Charlie Verdin, Tucson resident Chris Wright, and former state Rep. Bruce Wheeler.

With roughly 19 months before the general election, Matiella will have to focus heavily on raising money.

McSally, who raised $7.9 million during the last campaign, already has $631,114 in her campaign war chest, according to the Federal Election Commission.

Contact reporter Joe Ferguson at jferguson@tucson.com or 573-4197. On Twitter: @JoeFerguson


Reporter with the Arizona Daily Star. I cover politics as well as the city of Tucson and other municipalities in Southern Arizona.