U.S. Representative Martha McSally, a former Air Force combat pilot, said on Friday she would run against former sheriff Joe Arpaio, a close ally of President Donald Trump, in the race for the Republican nomination for a key Senate seat from Arizona.
Ms. McSally is the third candidate to jump into the Republican primary to replace Sen. Both candidates join former state Senator Kelli Ward, who has been in the race since October. Kelli Ward, a vocal Trump advocate, are also GOP candidates.
The Air Force colonel and first female fighter pilot in that branch of the military is now serving her second term in the House Representatives. McSally also cleverly adapts the ancient conservative injunction to RINOs to "grow a pair" by saying the GOP should "grow a pair of ovaries", presumably like hers. "He's one of the most honorable men I've ever known".
"I'm a fighter pilot and I talk like one", she said in an announcement video, a fiery beginning to one of the nation's premier Senate contests.
Later, she refused to condemn Trump's closed-door description of African countries as "shitholes".
McSally has the backing of the Republican establishment and is expected to formally announce her candidacy later today in Arizona.
Democrats see Arizona as a rare opportunity to pick up a Senate seat in 2018 as their party struggles to defend vulnerable incumbents in several other Republican-leaning states.
But avoids her Republican opponents altogether in her announcement video, focusing instead on her military service while adding a jab at Sharia law - a reference to her fight against a military policy that required female soldiers in some Muslim-majority countries to wear robes over their service uniforms.
The district went for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race by 5 points, but Ms. McSally easily won her re-election by 14 points that same year.
"Let me just say, I speak a little salty behind closed doors at times as well and so I am not going to throw the first stone on using any language". Over the past month, McSally has sent out photos of herself with the president and with first daughter Ivanka Trump....
"I absolutely refused to bow down to Sharia law". Her primary challengers include state Sen. "After eight years of fighting, I won my battle for the religious freedom of American servicewomen".
The victor will face off against likely Democratic opponent Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, who is a strong favorite to win her party's nomination.
McSally, 51, kicked off campaigning with an appearance Friday at an air hangar in her hometown of Tucson, followed by stops at a hangar in Phoenix and at the Yavapai County Courthouse in Prescott. John McCain's memorable - some might say notorious - 2010 television commercial in which the veteran Arizona Republican promises to "Complete the danged fence", McSally is seen walking along a fence while her voiceover promises to secure the border.
The Arizona Democratic Party highlighted what spokesman Drew Anderson called a "long, brutal and expensive" Republican civil war.