The Hill's 25 Women to Watch: Page 3 of 26



Kelly AyotteKelly AyotteCalifornia National Guard official: Congress knew about bonus repayments Outside group links Ayotte challenger to school sex scandal in new ad The Trail 2016: Who is really winning? MORE


Kelly Ayotte never ran for elected office before 2010, when she won the New Hampshire Senate seat held by former Sen. Judd Gregg (R). By 2012 she was said to be on GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s short list of running mates.

Her rise in politics has been swift since leaving private practice in a Manchester-based law firm in 1998. In 2004, then-Gov. Craig Benson appointed her state attorney general, and she easily defeated former Rep. Paul Hodes (D-N.H.) in her Senate race.

Ayotte’s husband is an Air National Guard veteran who flew combat missions in Iraq, and she has immersed herself in national security issues as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

She has become an ally of Sens. John McCainJohn McCainLots of (just) talk about 'draining the swamp' 56 memorable moments from a wild presidential race Is Georgia turning blue? MORE (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamThe Trail 2016: Who is really winning? Graham: GOP Senate could rein in Clinton White House The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (R-S.C.), two of the Senate’s most vocal advocates for a muscular American foreign policy, and positioned herself as a leading critic of President Obama’s terrorist detention policies, an important issue for Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellReid: Groping accusations show Trump’s ‘sickness’ GOP senators avoid Trump questions on rigged election Schumer says Pacific trade pact may have enough votes to pass the Senate MORE (Ky.).

Ayotte, McCain and Graham have led the Senate Republican scrutiny of the administration’s response to the deadly attacks in Benghazi, Libya, issuing a statement earlier this month declaring Obama, and not Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham Clinton'Yuge' challenges on many fronts await Trump TV Trump calls Florida 'must win' Mich. GOP skips election party, puts cash in campaigns MORE, as ultimately responsible for diplomatic security.

She has also teamed with McCain and Graham to oppose automatic spending cuts scheduled for year’s end. Earlier this year, she traveled with the two to Florida, North Carolina and Virginia — and with McCain to New Hampshire — to highlight the impact of the cuts in presidential battleground states. Democrats charged it was a politically motivated effort to hurt Obama with swing voters.

Despite her new prominence on the national stage, Ayotte still flies home every weekend to spend time with her eight-year-old daughter and five-year-old son.

When McCain eventually retires, she stands to become a leading voice on defense and national security issues within the Senate GOP conference — no small accomplishment for a junior senator. 

— Alexander Bolton