John McCain’s career in politics spanned 35 years, and his death Saturday at the age of 81 ended an era in Arizona politics. A former prisoner of war, McCain took over the U.S. Senate seat once held by another Arizona legend, Barry Goldwater. McCain’s impact can be measured in several events over those 35 years. Here are five of them.
Just say no: On July 28, 2017, McCain made a dramatic appearance on the Senate floor, two weeks after surgery that revealed the brain surgery that would kill him. He voted against a “skinny repeal” of the Affordable Care Act, notably turning his thumb down as he cast his vote.
A surprising choice: After receiving the Republican nomination for president, McCain chose Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate. “Don’t you think we made the right choice for the next vice president of the United States?” McCain asked after Palin accepted the No. 2 slot on the ticket. It was the first time a Republican nominee for president had a woman as a running mate. Democrat Walter Mondale had picked New York congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate in 1984.
Visibility: McCain came to national prominence in 1988, when he delivered a strong speech at the Republican National Convention in New Orleans. “We have a duty to leave our children a safer world than the one in which we live,” he said.
Good loser: After losing to Barack Obama for president in 2008, McCain’s concession speech referenced the history-making election of the first black president in U.S. history.
No carpetbagger: McCain first ran for national office in 1982, when he sought a congressional seat in Arizona. Critics during the Republican primary referred to him as a “carpetbagger,” but McCain was ready with a pointed response. McCain said the longest place he had ever lived was in Hanoi, where he spent 5½ years as a prisoner of war. McCain won the primary and the general election.