With Flake Out, Gardner’s Job Gets Even Harder

UPDATE: Yes, Sen. Jeff Flake’s speech today is going to leave a mark:

“If I have been critical, it not because I relish criticizing the behavior of the President of the United States,” Flake said. “If I have been critical, it is because I believe that it is my obligation to do so, as a matter of duty and conscience.”

He continued, “The notion that one should stay silent as the norms and values that keep America strong are undermined and as the alliances and agreements that ensure the stability of the entire world are routinely threatened by the level of thought that goes into 140 characters — the notion that one should say and do nothing in the face of such mercurial behavior is ahistoric and, I believe, profoundly misguided.”


Sens. Cory Gardner, Jeff Flake.

Politico reporting on the scathing words today from Sen. Jeff Flake, who announced he will not run for re-election next year as the GOP’s midterm turmoil deepens:

Embattled Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) will retire after his current term expires, he announced on Tuesday in a decision that further roils a 2018 Senate landscape marked by multiple Republican retirements.

Flake was one of the most vulnerable Republican senators up for reelection next year. A vocal critic of President Donald Trump throughout and since the 2016 campaign, Flake said it became clear that that opposition would make it impossible for him to get through a Republican primary.

We’ll update with further coverage, but Flake is mincing no words on his way out:

Sen. Flake’s decision to not seek re-election came as his far-right primary challenger state Sen. Kelli Ward is pulling into a double-digit lead over Flake in polling for the 2018 Arizona Senate primary. Ward lost to Sen. John McCain in 2016’s GOP primary, but has been boosted this time around by vociferous support from Donald Trump.

Ward’s decision to host a public discussion on the “chemtrails” conspiracy theory in 2014 continues to dog her. She has maintained she never believed airplane contrails are spewing dangerous chemicals into the environment. But critics say her taxpayer-funded public meeting on the topic in Kingman pandered to anti-government conspiracy theorists and reflected poor judgment on her part.

McCain’s 2016 campaign attempted to brand her as “Chemtrail Kelli” with ads that Ward’s campaign called “cynical and sexist character attacks to distract Arizona voters.”

Ward also has appeared on the radio show of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. She visited Nevada in 2014 in support of rancher Cliven Bundy, who at the time was in a tense standoff with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management over grazing fees and cattle. And Ward tweeted messages backing disgraced NBA owner Donald Sterling’s right to make racist comments, even though she said she did not agree them.

Although this development may clarify the short-term primary issues for National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) chairman Cory Gardner, the long-term problem is the need now to defend a far-right candidate in a competitive general election–like the problem Republicans face sooner in the Alabama special election with fringe-right candidate Roy Moore, but potentially much more serious in the long term due to Arizona being a more swingable state. For an analogy a little closer, this could turn out a lot like Ken Buck’s pyrrhic victory over Jane Norton in the 2010 GOP Senate primary.

At the very least, you can be assured Democrats will mount a major effort to stop Ward, based on both opportunity and general principles. And it’s quite possible that on Election Night 2018, Sen. Jeff Flake will be sorely missed by the chairman of the NRSC.

8 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Conserv. Head Banger says:

    I think I read something last week about a couple of Ward's campaign staffers leaving on grounds that she wasn't far enough to the right.

    • FrankUnderwood says:

      I don't doubt it. With Flake out, there will be a gaggle of wing nuts rushing in. I expect that Chem Trails Kelli will be challenged by a bunch of conspiracy theorists along with Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

      Barry Goldwater must be gyrating in his grave.


  2. Zappatero says:

    Bennet's job just got more relevant: he needs to step into the breach, use Republican Senators' fear to stand up for basic democratic principles as his cudgel, use their inability to stand against this horrible new normal as his motivation to push us back to a normal normal.

    Being bipartisan with those who still support Trump's sociopathy (Ryan, McConnell, Gardner, et al..) gives them an excuse to keep supporting him.

    He may be a worthy senator after all….

  3. FrankUnderwood says:

    In response to Flake's announcement, Sarah Huckabee said, Trump "wants people who are actually committed in the Senate."

    The word "committed" has several different meanings.

  4. JohnInDenver says:

    538 already is up with an article saying there are going to be additional candidates adding to the Republican primary, including some who have experience uniting factions of the AZ Republican party.  3 mentioned early … others, with slightly less of a state-wide profile, may try, too.

    Who could ask for more than an entertaining primary campaign??

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