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Behind Closed Doors

A secret recording shows U.S. Rep. McSally has some concerns about reelection

Congresswoman Martha McSally may be in more political trouble than she's been letting on.

Team McSally has been poo-pooing recent polls showing that more than half of the voters in her district disapprove of her job performance, while her approval has fallen down to the mid-30s, percentage-wise, and that she was losing to a generic Democrat by 7 percentage points.

But last week, in a private talk to the Arizona Bankers Association, McSally conceded that in the current political environment, she has some real challenges in next year's election.

McSally complained that President Donald Trump and his tweets were creating troubling "distractions" and "it's basically being taken out on me. Any Republican member of Congress, you are going down with the ship. And we're going to hand the gavel to Pelosi in 2018, they only need 28 seats and the path to that gavel being handed over is through my seat. And right now, it doesn't matter that it's me, it doesn't matter what I've done. I have an 'R' next to my name and right now, this environment would have me not prevail."

Admittedly, McSally was making these comments as she was asking the bankers to open their checkbooks for her reelection campaign, so it could well be that she was just doing the ol' fear-mongering-for-dollars act.

McSally's comments came to light after some of McSally's critics—including Kristen Randall, the leader of Indivisible Southern Arizona—ordered tickets to a talk McSally was giving at a luncheon for the Arizona Bankers Association.

Someone on Team McSally, however, appears to have taken a closer look at who was attending the event, because four of the five members of the group received emails about two hours before the lunch informing them that their tickets had been revoked. "They caught onto us," Randall says with a laugh.

But the fifth member (whose identity The Skinny is not privy to) did manage to appear bankerly enough to crash the party—and the spy recorded McSally's entire speech for the Randall's group, and from there, it fell into our hands.

McSally was more blunt in many of her comments behind closed doors than she typically is when questioned on the issues. In fact, she expressed frustration that the media and her constituents ask her to comment on what President Trump says and does.

"The environment has changed and some of it changed on January 20," McSally told the crowd. "There's just an element out there that's just, like, so against the president. Like they just can't see straight. And all of a sudden on January 20, I'm like his twin sister to them. And I'm, like, responsible for everything he does, and tweets and says. And they want me to be spending my time as a pundit. 'I disagree with that. I agree with this.' I have a job in the legislature!"

Randall says she does expect McSally to speak up when Trump does something offensive.

"That's her job," Randall says. "When there's going to be a vote, we want a statement. We want a dialogue. And she's not giving it to us. She seems really put out. ... She's a leader in our community and that is part of her job. There's a human component to her job that she very obviously does not enjoy."

In her talk, McSally acknowledged that the job comes with a lot of frustration. She said serving in Congress had gotten a lot harder since Trump's election last year and that she's forced to "navigate in the political theater, but I don't breathe life into it and I don't enjoy it, just to be frank with you. It actually drains me."

As she was talking to bankers, McSally focused on the latest GOP efforts to repeal the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act that regulated banks after the 2007 economic collapse. She characterized Dodd-Frank as a hindrance to banks that needs to be repealed.

"Within the public, there is often a perception that we had the financial meltdown and then Dodd-Frank was good and it was, you know, saving us from future financial meltdowns," McSally said. "You guys are all experts in the industry and you know that's not the truth. Really, what Dodd-Frank did, was it provided additional compliance and legislative regulations and more burdens upon you. It doesn't actually protect the consumer anymore, it just adds more paperwork and compliance."

McSally also had a lot to say about healthcare, but we don't have room in the column this week—so look for that online at The Range at tucsonweekly.com.

Randall says she's still hoping McSally will do some open town halls in Tucson so her group won't have to resort to subterfuge to try to find out her positions.

"I'm pretty angry that she was willing to talk to out-of-district bankers but she's not willing to talk to us," Randall said.

In the meantime, Indivisible Southern Arizona will be back to the protest beat at 8 a.m. Friday morning outside McSally's midtown offices, 4400 E. Broadway. This time, the group will be expressing unhappiness about McSally's support for overturning Dodd-Frank—and they'll have loudspeakers to play McSally's comments about the law to the bankers.

The televised edition of Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel airs 6:30 p.m. Fridays on the Creative Tucson network, Cox Channel 20 and Comcast Channel 74. The TV show repeats Sunday mornings at 9 a.m. The radio edition of Zona Politics airs at 5 p.m. Sundays on community radio KXCI, 91.3 FM, and at 1 p.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m. Sundays on KEVT, 1210 AM. Nintzel also talks politics on The John C. Scott show at 4 p.m. Thursdays on KEVT, 1210 AM.

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