Combat fighter pilot joins competitive Arizona Senate race

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She enters a dynamic Republican primary field that features a nationally celebrated immigration hardliner, 85-year-old former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was pardoned by Trump last year after defying a judge's order to stop traffic patrols that targeted immigrants.

The three-way primary race pits McSally, the favorite of the traditional GOP establishment, against Arpaio and Kelli Ward, a former state senator, both of whom will be battling to win the party's conservative base. McSally, a retired Air Force colonel and the first female fighter pilot to fly a combat mission, will fly herself across Arizona Friday in a World War II fighter plane to personally announce her candidacy. "I told Washington Republicans to grow a pair of ovaries and get the job done", McSally said in the video.

Rep. Martha McSally speaks at a rally, Friday, Jan. 12, 2018, in Tucson, Ariz.

"I absolutely refuse to bow down to Sharia law", McSally says, after a narrator discusses her successful fight against a USA military policy that required women to wear head-to-toe garb in Saudi Arabia.

"I'm a fighter pilot, and I talk like one", McSally says in her announcement video. And she's finding her inner Trump.

National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Steve Stivers said Friday that Republicans are already in better shape than Democrats in Rep. Martha McSally's competitive district even without an incumbent.

In a private hanger at the Tucson International Airport, McSally briefly highlighted her accomplishments during her 26 years of military service and her three years in Congress before revealing her campaign strategy to a mostly friendly crowd of more than 100 and about two-dozen journalists.

On Twitter on Friday, McSally thanked Trump for attacking Democrats who are contemplating a government shutdown to protect young immigrants known as "Dreamers".

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Like Trump, Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida is a member of the Republican Party. White House spokesman Raj Shad defended the president but did not directly deny his remarks.

She faces a GOP field that consists of former state Sen.

She wore a flight suit, her uniform from her days as the country's first female combat pilot, and she spoke about her record of fighting the Department of Defense over the clothes women in the military were forced to wear in restrictive countries practicing Sharia law. Sharia law is the religious law of Islam but has become a political punching bag for many conservatives.

The victor of the Republican primary will likely face U.S. Representative Kyrsten Sinema, the Democratic front-runner.

"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 really has no place to raise money anymore", said Chuck Coughlin, a Republican consultant in Phoenix.

On Friday afternoon, election forecaster Cook Political Report moved its rating of the open seat in CD2 from tossup to leans Democrat.

"Whoever escapes the GOP primary in August, they will be held accountable for touting their radical stripes at every opportunity and willingness to take stances on issues that are simply out of touch with Arizonan voters", state Democratic Party spokesman Drew Anderson said.

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