The 54-year-old graduated from the academy in 1988 before earning a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard University ahead of her training as a pilot.
McSally served for 26 years in the U.S. Air Force before retiring as a colonel in 2010. During her tenure, she became the first woman in U.S. history to fly a fighter jet in combat as well as the first to command a fighter squadron.
She later teamed with The Rutherford Institute, a non-profit human rights organization, to win a 2002 lawsuit before the Supreme Court urging the U.S. Department of Defense to amend a rule requiring U.S. servicewomen stationed in Saudi Arabia to wear the body-covering abaya when traveling off-base.
A decade later, McSally jumpstarted her career in politics, running in a special election for the Copper State’s eighth congressional district — a seat vacated coincidentally by Kelly’s wife and former congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords.
After finishing second to fellow Republican Jesse Kelly, McSally then won the race for the state’s second district, besting Democratic incumbent Ron Barber.
She won again in 2014 in an extremely tight contest and defeated Democratic opponent Matt Heinz in 2016.
The 2018 midterm elections proved more complicated for the veteran representative. Once a critic of President Trump with more moderate political beliefs, McSally pivoted and the president appeared alongside her at a rally ahead of the race.
After winning the August primary, McSally took on progressive nominee Kyrsten Sinema and lost.
Afterward, Republican Gov. Doug Ducey later appointed McSally to the seat of beloved Republican Sen. John McCain.
She currently serves on six Senate committees.
In her 2020 quest, McSally has trailed Kelly, with both candidates pitching their parties’ ideals to Arizonan voters.
In the first and only debate against the former NASA astronaut, McSally touted her platform of strong borders, support for funding law enforcement and her role as a “Second Amendment senator,” referring to the Constitutional provision giving Americans the right to own firearms.
Despite her efforts, Kelly has maintained a strong position in the race — heightening speculation that its changing demographics will lead it to support Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.