“We got to get beyond the teddy bears, candles and flowers,” says Bill Odle, a rancher who lives on the border and is volunteering for McSally’s campaign. “We got real problems down here. You come down, and I’ll give you a tour. The colonel is very tough, and very smart, and she’s a firecracker. She’ll make stuff happen.”
At a candidates forum organized as part of a housing conference, McSally briskly runs through her experience and local bona fides, then gives an extended answer on how to find cuts within the nation’s military budget without hurting readiness or jobs in the district, which has two installations and a large Raytheon presence.
“There are efficiencies to be gained, believe me, I know about the Pentagon. You spend money at the end of the fiscal year to make sure you have it next year,” she says. “But our military can’t run on a budget-based strategy. It has to be a strategy-based budget.”
Then she adds, “If you elect me as your congresswoman, I won’t need a little staffer to whisper in my ear about some briefing paper.”
At each venue, she questions those attending about what they need from her. She listens intently to community bankers who want more flexible lending requirements than the too-big-too-fail boys, and to small businessmen who need reliability in a guest-workforce and to seniors anxious about their Social Security and Medicare.
And, at nearly every venue, at virtually every turn, she gets the “Gabby” question.
“We are rugged individuals,” she says at an event in Tucson. “We elect unique people to represent us in this district — Mo Udall, Jim Kolbe, Gabby Giffords. I resemble Gabby Giffords more than the man who worked for her, although I am grateful for his service.”
“I understand how people feel. The people of the district just lost their affable congresswoman, who was reasonable, and who listened to them,” she says at a stop in Phoenix.
“And, I guess what I would say is, well, who does that look like?” and she gives a little wave of her hand.