Representative-elect Martha McSally answered questions after her victory Wednesday. Answers have been edited for length.
Q. Your victory was part of a trend of House seats flipping from Democrats to Republicans in the midterm election. What does that say to you?
A. It was a referendum on President Obama’s policies and philosophies and how they’re hurting regular, hardworking Americans. It’s really important for Republicans in the Senate and the House to have heard the message and to show that we can govern and we have solutions that are actually going to help people.
Q. It must have been a weird month of not knowing but also having to prepare. What was that like for you?
A. It was challenging, for sure. Once we knew we had won the initial count, I had to hit the ground running and focus on everything that needed to get done while still ensuring that we had good oversight in the recounting process. I think my military training helps with that, where you’re able to compartmentalize and focus on the mission.
We felt pretty confident that we had won, but we just couldn’t breath a sigh of relief until this morning.
Q. Through the ups and downs of campaigning, how were you able to stay positive?
A. As I look back, my sanity was getting up early every morning and going out running with my rescue dog (Boomer). As sleep deprived as I was and as intense as it was, I think just being able to get up every day and start off with a cup of coffee in my hand as I walked two blocks — just jump-starting my heart — and then I’d start running. Running’s always been something that’s good for me to relieve stress, and I’d come up with ideas.
Q. What will you do next on the A-10 issue?
A. The President’s budget intended to mothball the A-10 gradually over the next five years, starting with about 110 airplanes being mothballed this fiscal year. How that would have impacted us locally here is the first squadron — the squadron I commanded — would have been closed down this year.
What the defense bill did was put in some provisions that say they can’t spend money to retire the A-10, which is good, and it provides some funding for A-10 operations and maintenance, which is good.
There’s a provision in there that brings me concern though, which is that up to 36 airplanes can be put into what they call “backup status,” which means no money and no manpower. It depends how they do this. If they decide one whole squadron goes to backup status, it’s essentially the first step to closing that squadron down.
The last compromise the administration tried to get through Congress was to close down three squadrons, and of those squadrons was the Bulldogs here at Davis-Monthan. So they were still in the top group of squadrons the administration wanted to close down. And now we have a provision of potentially putting 36 airplanes in backup status, so I’m concerned about how that’s going to impact overall and how it’s specifically going to impact the one squadron here.
I want to meet with the Pentagon Air staff to understand what their plan is for these 36. I want to be able to provide oversight.
The defense authorization and appropriations bills are where the next fight happens, so that’s the main focus to turning this thing around.
Q. Where do you stand on the President’s executive action, and what should the House do next on immigration?
A. I think people can agree our system is broken and it’s unsustainable. We need to address the root cause by revamping our legal immigration system and securing our border.
The House needs to just get to work to solve the problem, and I don’t agree with the President’s action. The timing was bizarre. We had just come off an election that was a referendum on his policies and then he takes this very controversial unilateral action, as opposed to allowing the new Congress to sit and try to sort it out. I really think that was absolutely inappropriate on his part, and he needs to figure out how to lead and work with a divided government that just gave him a message that they don’t like what he’s doing.
As one of only nine border districts, my intent is to lead on that issue.
Congressman Barber and I have been saying the same thing on this, which is it’s a failed strategy of defense and depth and what we need is the Border Patrol actively patrolling at the border.
I need to sit down with Homeland Security and understand why they have the strategy that they have and provide oversight to fix that strategy. You don’t necessarily need more resources until you put the resources you have in the right place.
When it comes to revamping the legal immigration system, we need a more thoughtful approach with H1B visas. If someone’s coming to the U of A and graduating with a PhD in science technology, we should be stapling a Green Card to their diploma instead of sending them back to countries that compete with us.
We need a nimble guest-worker program that is responsive to our economic needs. If somebody comes here with skills