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

The Hill's 25 Women to Watch

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CAPITOL HILL

Kelly AyotteKelly AyotteRNC chair warns: Republicans who refused to back Trump offer 'cautionary tale' OPINION: Democracy will send ISIS to the same grave as communism Kelly Ayotte joins defense contractor's board of directors MORE

US SENATOR

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 McCainBush biographer: Trump has moved the goalpost for civilized society White House to pressure McConnell on ObamaCare McCain: Trump needs to state difference between bigots and those fighting hate MORE (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey GrahamGraham: Trump's Charlottesville rhetoric 'dividing Americans, not healing them' OPINION: Congress should censure Trump for his unfit conduct Supporting 'Dreamers' is our civic and moral duty 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 McConnellTrump’s isolation grows Ellison: Trump has 'level of sympathy' for neo-Nazis, white supremacists Trump touts endorsement of second-place finisher in Alabama primary 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 ClintonAssange meets U.S. congressman, vows to prove Russia did not leak him documents High-ranking FBI official leaves Russia probe OPINION | Steve Bannon is Trump's indispensable man — don't sacrifice him to the critics 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

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