Editor"s note: This is the fifth of one 18-chapter file of Sen. John McCain, portions of which initially were published in October 1999 and also March 2007. It has actually been updated and expanded. Read more about this project: John McCain’s American Story.

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In 1979, man McCain came face to face with his future.

He was in Hawaii, attending a army reception. When there, he met a young, former cheerleader from Phoenix named Cindy Hensley.

McCain was instantly dazzled and spent the occasion chatting her up.

"She was lovely, intelligent and also charming, 17 year my junior yet poised and also confident," McCain composed in his 2002 book, "Worth the Fighting For." "I monopolized her fist the entire time, taking treatment to stop anyone rather from intruding on ours conversation. Once it came time to leave the party, I persuaded her to sign up with me for drinks at the imperial Hawaiian Hotel. By the evening"s end, I remained in love."

McCain recalls the both he and also Cindy initially misled every other around their ages. McCain made self a little younger, and Cindy made herself a little older. They found out their real ages when the local paper published them. McCain to be 43, Cindy 25.

"So our marriage," McCain cracks, "is really based upon a organization of lies."

Early in the courtship, McCain called Cindy native Beijing, where he was traveling with a Senate international Relations Committee contingent. Cindy remained in the hospital recuperating native minor knee surgery. She thanked him because that the lovely flowers in her room, sent out from "John."

What McCain didn"t tell Cindy was that he hadn"t sent the flowers. They to be from an additional John, who lived in Tucson.

"I never ever thanked him," Cindy notes with a grin.

The dissolution of a marriage

After a whirlwind courtship, john asked Cindy come marry him. Yet there were part details to clear the end of the way.

McCain necessary a divorce from Carol, his wife of 14 years from whom he was separated. When McCain to be a POW, she had actually been seriously injured in a auto accident. ~ McCain"s homecoming from Vietnam, the couple had grown apart. Your marriage started disintegrating when McCain was stationed in Jacksonville. McCain has admitted to having extramarital affairs.

"If there to be one pair that deserved to do it, it to be John and Carol McCain," writer Robert Timberg wrote in "John McCain: an American Odyssey." "They endured almost six year of unspeakable trauma v courage and grace. In the finish it was not enough. They won the war however lost the peace."

In February 1980, much less than a year after he met Cindy, McCain petitioned a Florida court to dissolve his marriage to Carol, call the union "irretrievably broken."

Bud Day, a lawyer and fellow POW, handled the divorce proceedings.

"I thought points were going relatively well, and then it just came apart," Day later on recalled. "That occurred to quite a few. ... I don"t fault (Carol), and I don"t really fault John, either."

In his publication "Worth the Fighting For," McCain uses his own post-mortem top top his fail marriage. That "had not presented the exact same determination come rebuild (his) personal life" as he had actually to excel in his navy career.

"Sound marriages have the right to be tough to recover after good time and also distance have actually separated a husband and wife. We room different human being when us reunite," McCain wrote. "But mine marriage"s collapse was attributable come my own selfishness and also immaturity much more than it was to Vietnam, and also I cannot escape blame by pointing a finger in ~ the war. The reference was completely mine."

Carol, who stayed on good terms v her previous husband, usually has avoided reporters interested in hearing her side the the story.

She go briefly attend to her divorce to Timberg: "The breakup the our marriage was not brought about by my accident or Vietnam or any of those things. I don"t recognize that it could not have actually happened if John had actually never been gone. I attribute it more to John turning 40 and wanting to be 25 again 보다 I execute to anything else."

In the divorce settlement, McCain was generous v Carol, the mommy of their daughter Sidney and two sons, who McCain had actually adopted. Amongst other things, McCain gave Carol the legal rights to residences in Florida and also Virginia and agreed to administer insurance or pay for added treatment she was meant to require.

Except because that signing the building settlement, Carol go not participate in the divorce. A court summons and also other paperwork sent to her during the proceeding walk unanswered.

In April 1980, the judge gotten in a default judgment and declared the marriage dissolved.

A month later, McCain married Cindy in Phoenix, wherein the couple would live. The wedding party contained a pair of McCain"s high-profile friends native Washington, D.C. Sen. William Cohen to be the ideal man. Sen. Gary Hart to be a groomsman.

Carol walk her separate way, finding work-related as a an individual aide come Nancy Reagan during the 1980 presidential major campaign and also later running the White home Visitors Office.

Ready because that a new challenge

The relocate to Arizona was convenient for the budding politico McCain. After ~ the 1980 census, Arizona was certain to gain a new, fifth congressional seat.

But was it also convenient?

McCain describes the reaction of several of his brand-new neighbors: "My ambition to be plainly obvious, and to some, it was presumptuous and arrogant. If not said, the was assumed by many that as soon as I had determined to start a politics career, I had looked roughly the country for a location where I thought the locals were gullible sufficient to take a chance on a novice. Worse, part critics competed that I had married Cindy since of she Arizona residency and also her wealth and connections there. Neither fee is fair, and I to be surprised at exactly how angry i still come to be when some fool hints that together ruthlessness place behind decisions to marry and also relocate."

McCain truly was at a transforming point in his life and ready because that a new challenge.

He had actually a new wife. He retirement from the marine in 1981. His father, Adm. Jack McCain, died on in march 22, 1981.

Politics populated his mind.

According come Timberg"s book, McCain actually had toyed v the idea of seek a home seat as far earlier as 1976, when he to be still life in Florida, but determined he most likely couldn"t win. ~ his Senate liaison duty, it ended up being an obsession.

Cindy"s money came from her family members business. Her father, Jim Hensley, owned a Phoenix Anheuser-Busch distributorship that had actually made that a multimillionaire. He offered his brand-new son-in-law a job as vice president of public relations, but, really, McCain was simply biding his time till the ideal political possibility came up.

"Jim Hensley didn"t care around PR," said Bill Shover, a former executive through The Arizona Republic who met McCain in 1981. "When you have the Budweiser franchise, you ... Don"t require PR."

McCain self acknowledges that he "fit the bill" that the stereotypical "upwardly mobile boss" son-in-law who obviously lacks the experience and training commonly required for the job he holds." yet he didn"t desire to allow Hensley down, either.

On the political front, McCain reached out come his Capitol Hill mentors and friends for guidance. Cohen placed him in touch through veteran politics consultant Jay Smith, that advised McCain come discreetly acquire out and also start meeting Arizona VIPs.

His task with Hensley enabled him to perform that.

It didn"t take long for McCain to meet wealthy strength brokers such as developers Charles Keating Jr. And Fife Symington III, that would later on be elected governor. Neighborhood polls said McCain start slowly by to run for the state Legislature, but McCain wasn"t interested.

Eager to make up for time lost as a POW, McCain want Arizona"s brand-new congressional seat.

But he had actually a problem. The brand-new district was in the Tucson area. For McCain to move from Phoenix come Tucson would open him up to criticism together a carpetbagger.

McCain for Congress

"I"m top top the freeway," stated McCain, who had actually stopped in ~ a organization station to contact Shover. "I"m on the means to Mesa to buy a house."

McCain to be hardly a shoo-in. Other popular local Republicans had actually their eye ~ above Rhodes" job and were not around to action aside because that an audacious newcomer.

Two veteran state lawmakers gone into the race. State Sen. Jim Mack, R-Tempe, had actually served in the Legislature due to the fact that 1971; Rep. Donna Carlson-West, R-Mesa, due to the fact that 1975. Ray Russell, a third GOP rival, to be a personable previous veterinarian energetic in Mesa civic affairs and also the Mormon Church.

The Republican facility took McCain seriously since of his battle record and Washington insider ties. Plus, McCain had charm. Women were drawn to him, and also men respect him together a man"s man.

"John to be a an extremely engaging guy," Shover recalls. "You might not assist but favor John."

But as a current Valley transplant, that looked like a carpetbagger, and also critics instantly seized the issue.

How McCain lastly squelched the charge has become component of Arizona political lore.

At a 1982 candidates forum, McCain "snapped," to usage his very own word, after ~ somebody lugged up his residency "for the thousandth time."

Here is what the said:

"Listen, pal. I spent 22 years in the Navy. My grandfather was in the Navy. Us in the military company tend to move a lot. We need to live in all parts of the country, all components of the world. I wish I might have had actually the luxury, favor you, of farming up and also living and spending my entire life in a nice ar like the an initial district that Arizona, however I was doing various other things. Together a matter of fact, as soon as I think about it now, the location I live longest in my life was Hanoi."

The late Phoenix Gazette political columnist john Kolbe is quoted in Timberg"s publication as phone call McCain"s brusque prize "the many devastating solution to a possibly troublesome political issue I"ve ever before heard."

McCain recalls in "Worth the Fighting For": "Looking back, ns think the gyeongju was successfully over ideal then. I had stunned the audience and also finally placed to remainder the one nagging vulnerability the was still clouding mine prospects. However I didn"t recognize that then. I was just mad and also had take away a swing."

And it wasn"t the only time the McCain would certainly lash out during the campaign.

Mack contacted McCain"s former wife Carol in hopes of digging up dust on McCain. An offended Carol gave McCain a heads-up around the telephone call. (She likewise discussed the conversation through Kolbe, who ripped Mack in a Gazette column.)

McCain confronted Mack ~ a subsequent campaign event.

McCain recounts in his book: "When the dispute ended, ns walked end to the foe who had attempted come mine some small nasty opposition research from mine failed marriage and told him v as lot steel together I"m qualified of demonstrating, "If you ever shot to hurt anyone in my family members again, I will personally beat the shit the end of you." "

A taste that victory

McCain"s strategy for winning the primary focused primarily top top Scottsdale. Mack, Carlson-West and also Russell"s stoming grounds were Mesa and also Tempe. Much to McCain"s surprise, the well-known longtime Scottsdale mayor Herb Drinkwater immediately embraced his candidacy. The market lined up support from the rest of the City Council and also other Scottsdale ar leaders.

"I can"t think the a single Arizonan outside the confines of my own residence who was much more instrumental come my election to Congress," McCain later recalled that Drinkwater, who passed away in 1997.

Other Arizonans helped, too. For example, previous governor and also senator Paul Fannin, R-Ariz., endorsed McCain. The did so in ~ the urging the Sen. John Tower, McCain"s buddy from his work in the Navy"s Senate liaison office.

According come McCain, Tower helped more than anybody, breaking his own long-standing rule versus backing a candidate in a compete GOP main to assistance his friend.

He additionally intervened through Sen. Barry Goldwater, R-Ariz., after Goldwater"s office criticized McCain because that trying come take some credit for the then-new Apache attack helicopter that a Mesa defense contractor would certainly build.

McCain had actually supported the Apache as Navy liaison yet later acknowledged his effort to re-superstructure in the glory that the local contract award was "a little bit of a stretch."

But Tower quickly issued a counter news relax confirming that McCain had indeed recommended the Apache.

Russell freshly recalled McCain together a hard worker and a tireless, if inexperienced, campaigner.

"He really want that worse than anything," Russell said. "There were several worries that that flip-flopped on. He wanted to win so badly the he"d tell people whatever they wanted to hear."

On Sept. 7, 1982, McCain finished an initial with 15,363 votes. Russell was second (12,500 votes), Mack third (10,675 votes) and Carlson-West fourth (9,736 votes).

According to Russell, McCain"s early and effective use of television advertising aided him clinch victory. Carlson-West"s decision to remain in the race additionally helped McCain, Russell said.

"If she had dropped out, i would have beaten McCain easily due to the fact that I would have acquired almost all of her votes," Russell said. "But that"s politics: timing and money and also all that stuff."

The congressional district was so solidly Republican that McCain had actually Rhodes" seat locked increase after the primary. The made brief work of his autonomous opponent, bill Hegarty, thumping him by a more than 2-1 margin in the Nov. 2, 1982, general election.


Many have told the story of McCain win the first Congressional ar by attract out three pairs that shoes, with the last pair immortalized in copper by Cindy. McCain"s footwear certainly took a beating during the race, however it was an ext greenbacks than soles that swept McCain right into the residence of Representatives.

McCain"s very first campaign benefited indigenous his wife"s an individual wealth, some of which had been tied increase in a trust set up in 1971 by her parents, Jim and also Marguerite "Smitty" Hensley.

In 1981, the to trust expired and was dissolved, providing Cindy a half interest in western Leasing Co., a truck-leasing organization controlled by her father, according to Trevor Potter, basic counsel come the McCain 2000 presidential campaign and 2008 exploratory campaign. Potter also is a former chairman that the federal Election Commission. Western Leasing was no the only earnings the McCains had actually in 1982.

They deserve a linked $130,000 in salary and bonuses from Hensley, the beer distributorship controlled by Cindy"s father. John likewise had his marine pension, which payment $31,000 a year.

"No one pretends that Cindy had actually no money in ~ all," Potter said. "It was hers. And it wasn"t something Jim (Hensley) had offered her because that the campaign."

Under 1982 election rules, it was legal for McCain come tap his wife"s assets, and also his own, once making personal loans come the campaign. In 1983, the rules to be rewritten, v tighter guidelines on the usage of family members money.

In the end, including the personal loans, McCain would certainly raise much more than $550,000 to success the seat.

The "maverick" is born


McCain"s notoriety complied with him earlier to Washington, D.C.

Although for the most component McCain"s residence years found him a reasonably typical Reagan era conservative, from day 1 he clearly was a tiny different native his peers.

In 1983, that was elected the residence GOP freshman course president.

In 1985, after ~ he had breezed to a second term the previous November, McCain went back to Vietnam v veteran CBS newsman Walter Cronkite. He gained to go only after part drama.

The Vietnamese federal government initially balked at providing McCain a visa. As soon as in Hanoi, Cronkite and also McCain do a prevent at a monument marking the fall of "the well known air pirate" blown out of the sky in 1967.

McCain, the man immortalized by the landmark, mingled v Vietnamese onlookers passionate to shower his hand. The McCain order aired top top CBS as part of an hour-long special titled "Honor, Duty and a War referred to as Vietnam."

As a representative, McCain took another vote the is of attention in retrospect.

In autumn 1983, the bucked president Ronald Reagan by voting against a resolution permitting the White house to keep Marines deployed in Lebanon for an additional 18 months.

He denounced the plan in a house floor speech.

"I carry out not foresee obtainable missions in Lebanon," McCain said. "I think the much longer we stay, the more an overwhelming it will be to leave, and also I am all set to expropriate the results of our withdrawal."

The resolution passed. The following month, a terrorist truck bomb not correct the Marines" barracks in Beirut, death 241 soldiers.

Reflecting top top the resolution in "Worth the Fighting For," McCain notes that the approval currently was a done deal, "so I have the right to hardly insurance claim my dissenting vote was a singular act of politics courage."

But over there were other consequences, as McCain explains:

"It recorded the fist of the Washington press corps, who tend to notification acts that political self-reliance from unforeseen quarters. My press secretary, Torie Clarke, began receiving interview request from national print and also broadcast media.

"Because of my POW experience, ns had constantly enjoyed a little more celebrity 보다 is typically accorded freshmen, but not so much that my views to be solicited or even taken serious by the nationwide media.

"Now i was debating Lebanon on programs prefer the "MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour" and in the pages that the New York Times and also the Washington Post. I was gratified by the attention and also eager because that more."

U.S. News & people Report noted him a "Republican on the rise." also Rolling Stone, the left-leaning music and also pop society magazine, praised McCain for the vote.

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The "maverick" was born.

NEXT CHAPTER: Ever-ambitious, john McCain rises come the Senate

John McCain"s American Story

Chapter 1: John McCain a examine in contradictionChapter 2: John McCain to be destined for the marine AcademyChapter 3: John McCain to be "a very determined guy" as a POWChapter 4: John McCain"s politics ambition arised after POW returnChapter 5: John McCain"s politics career began after Arizona moveChapter 6: Ever-ambitious, john McCain rises come the SenateChapter 7: John McCain "in a hell of a mess" with Keating FiveChapter 8: After Keating Five, man McCain faced new scandalChapter 9: John McCain becomes the "maverick"Chapter 10: "Ugly" national politics in john McCain"s 2000 presidential runChapter 11: John McCain was frequent adversary of shrub in at an early stage yearsChapter 12: John McCain goes establishment for 2nd White residence runChapter 13: John McCain had rough start to 2008 presidential raceChapter 14: John McCain clinches 2008 GOP presidential nominationChapter 15: John McCain bring away on Obama because that president in 2008Chapter 16: John McCain stops working in second bid because that presidentChapter 17: "Complete the danged fence," john McCain proclaimsChapter 18: John McCain wins sixth term, reclaims "maverick" label