John McCain, 46, of Tempe, Ariz., who will take the seat of retiring 30-year veteran John J. Rhodes, is a retired Navy captain who spent six years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam.

Born in the Panama Canal Zone (both his father and grandfather were admirals) and graduated from the Naval Academy at Annapolis, McCain spent most of his 22-year naval career as a pilot, and he also served four years as the Navy's chief liaison to the Senate.

McCain moved to Tempe with his wife and three children in the spring of 1981 when he retired. Although he has been there less than two years, he reflects his district, which is heavily Republican and conservative.

McCain has been working as a vice president of an Anheuser-Busch Inc. beer distributorship, which hurt his campaign among the Mormon population in his district.

He has no previous experience in politics, but McCain is a staunch supporter of President Reagan's economic policies and would vote in favor of a balanced budget amendment.

McCain opposes the Equal Rights Amendment, supports voluntary prayer in schools, and opposes school busing for desegregation. He is against the use of federal funds for abortions for poor women.

McCain is especially interested in water issues, particularly the Central Arizona Project, and would like to be assigned to the House Interior Committee. Because of the large number of retirees in his district, he would also like to be a member of the Committee on Aging.

McCain spent $600,000 on his campaign for the 1st District seat and won by a huge margin, 65 percent to 31 percent, over a high school driving instructor.