clear
Friday November 24th, 2017 5:02PM

Upstart Republican now in headlights of Arizona Senate race

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

PHOENIX (AP) — The upstart tea party Republican who challenged Arizona Sen. John McCain last year and then set her sights on the state's junior senator is suddenly in the national spotlight.

Former state Sen. Kelli Ward said Tuesday that Sen. Jeff Flake's decision to bow out opens a clear path for her to win his U.S. Senate seat next year. But those statements come even as Arizona Republicans are looking for other candidates to put on the ballot because they consider her unlikely to be able to knock off Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema in the general election next year.

"It's not about the candidate, Kelli Ward, it's about protecting that seat and keeping it a Republican seat and keeping the seat, quite honestly, away from Kyrsten Sinema," said Robert Graham, the former chair of the state Republican Party who is one of a host of people considering jumping into the race. "And I don't believe, and many people don't believe, that Kelli Ward is that person."

Ward pushes back, saying people like Graham and the other potential candidates are establishment Republicans out of touch with the movement that elected President Donald Trump and that they don't like the independence she showed in the state Legislature.

"Some people in the establishment don't like that idea, but the voters do. And that's why I'm not only electable in a primary, I'm extremely electable in a general election," Ward said in an interview Tuesday. "We're on a winning path here, and we're not going to let up."

Ward, 48, is a West Virginia native who moved to Arizona in 1999 and worked as an emergency room physician in Lake Havasu City and nearby communities. Her husband is also an ER doctor and served in the Arizona Air National Guard.

She said she decided to run for office in 2011 after the passage of the Affordable Care Act, which she calls in speeches "an assault on health care liberty and on health care freedom." After the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015 upheld the tax credits that help lower-income people buy insurance, she compared the law on Twitter to slavery and prohibition.

She has also drawn repeated criticism for remarks she made about McCain being too old to seek re-election last year and again this year, when she suggested after his cancer diagnosis that he should step down and that the governor should consider appointing her to his seat.

Two years ago, Ward was well known only in her rural northwestern state Senate district. Her statewide exposure was limited to a few items, including an odd meeting she called in her district to let state environmental officials hear from people who thought the government was using jetliners to spray chemicals into the atmosphere for nefarious purposes. Ward has said she just facilitated the meeting and didn't believe in the "chemtrail" theory. But it later became an effective political attack that framed her statewide identity.

She stepped down in the middle of her second two-year term to challenge McCain, an icon in the Republican Party and former GOP presidential nominee. She turned what many saw as a laughable, upstart race into a genuine primary challenge, although in the last months McCain pulled away by using his name ID and massive fundraising prowess to handily defeat her. He then went on to win a sixth term in the Senate.

Now she is framing herself as a backer of the president, looking to drain the Washington swamp of what she calls the typical merry-go-round of recycled GOP candidates that she believes is blocking his agenda.

"The people who are stirring this up are in that swampy pot," she said of her GOP opponents. "They don't want to drain the swamp."

Besides Graham, other potential Republican candidates for Flake's seat include current state university regent Jay Heiler, state Treasurer Jeff DeWit and all five Republican members of Congress, Paul Gosar, Trent Franks, Andy Biggs, David Schweikert and Martha McSally.

It's not just Arizona Republicans who believe Ward won't make it out of the primary. Steven Law, head of a super PAC allied with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that supports GOP incumbents and establishment-aligned candidates, said Monday that Ward "will not be the Republican nominee for this Senate seat in 2018."

McSally's name became oft-mentioned as soon as Flake announced his retirement on Monday, because she's seen as electable as a both a moderate and a strong backer of Trump's agenda. Her southern Arizona district is one of just three in the state considered competitive. She has secured it well but is facing a challenge from former Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick next year.

Ward said she would hammer McSally in a primary race and said she needs to concentrate on winning re-election in her House district to ensure it remains in Republican hands.

"I know the Republican Party has already invested a lot of money in Martha McSally to stay in that seat and to stay strong, and I hope that she will," she said. "Because there is certainly no reason for any other Republican to get into this race."

The Republican hopefuls are waiting for the results of new polls to see who they think could beat Sinema, and Ward, who looks unmovable. Depending on the outcome, more GOP candidates could appear.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP National News, AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Online Congress News, AP Elections, General Election News, General Senate Election News
© Copyright 2017 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Thailand grieves in elaborate final goodbye to King Bhumibol
Grieving Thais mourned on Bangkok's streets or at viewing areas around the nation as elaborate funeral ceremonies were held for King Bhumibol Adulyadej followed a year of mourning
12:20AM ( 6 minutes ago )
The Latest: Hernandez RBI single ties Game 2 at 5-all
Enrique Hernandez hit an RBI single with two outs in the 10th inning and the Los Angeles Dodgers are tied 5-all with the Houston Astros in Game 2 of the World Series
12:09AM ( 16 minutes ago )
Brazil's Temer survives corruption vote, but can he lead?
Brazilian President Michel Temer may have saved his job by convincing a small majority in Congress not to suspend him and put him on trial for corruption, but his scandal-rocked government appears more weakened than ever
12:02AM ( 24 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
The Latest: Ivanka Trump pitches child tax credits on Hill
Ivanka Trump is pitching an expanded child tax credit in a visit to Capitol Hill
9:54PM ( 2 hours ago )
States lose push to force Trump to restart health subsidies
A U.S. judge has rejected a request from 18 states and the District of Columbia to force the Trump administration to resume paying "Obamacare" subsidies right away
9:47PM ( 2 hours ago )
Vice President Pence to visit Israel and Egypt in December
Vice President Mike Pence has announced that he will travel to Israel and Egypt in late December
9:27PM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
Texas House speaker who slowed conservative agenda retires
Republican Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, a powerful moderating influence in the country's largest conservative state, says he won't seek re-election for his San Antonio-based seat next year
6:50PM ( 5 hours ago )
Some expect rush of GOP hopefuls vying for Sen. Flake's seat
U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake's decision to avoid re-election has opened the door for mainstream Arizona Republicans to recruit another candidate who can draw support from populists backing President Donald Trump
6:48PM ( 5 hours ago )
The Latest: Brazilian lawmakers block trial for president
Brazilian President Michel Temer has emerged victorious on a key vote in Congress on whether to put him on trial for corruption charges
6:45PM ( 5 hours ago )
AP Online Congress News
Kenya holds new presidential election amid call for boycott
Kenya is holding its second recent presidential election despite high tension and the main opposition leader's call for his followers to boycott
11:16PM ( 1 hour ago )
Trump says Clinton team funding for Russia info "a disgrace'
President Donald Trump is portraying himself as the aggrieved party in light of the disclosure that the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign helped pay for political research behind a compilation of allegations about his ties to Russia
5:26PM ( 6 hours ago )
The Latest: US urges calm ahead of Kenya's repeat election
The Latest: US urges calm ahead of Kenya's repeat election amid concerns about interference
5:25PM ( 7 hours ago )
AP Elections
Pennsylvania finds 544 possibly illegal ballots since 2000
Pennsylvania election officials say noncitizen immigrants may have cast 544 ballots illegally out of more than 93 million ballots in elections spanning 18 years in the state
1:51PM ( 10 hours ago )
Flake's bow-out could mean rush of Arizona GOP candidates
U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake's decision to bow out of a re-election fight could spur a rush of other Republican candidates who hope to take on his only announced challenger in the 2018 Arizona primary
12:24AM ( 1 day ago )
In Alabama, Jones touts his role jailing murderous Klansmen
An Alabama Democrat running for the U.S. Senate is touting his role in convicting two Ku Klux Klansmen for the 1963 church bombing that killed four black girls at the height of the civil rights movement
11:27AM ( 2 days ago )
General Election News
Trump crowdsources GOP senators on choice for Fed chair
President Donald Trump has turned to Republican senators for advice as he nears a decision on naming a new head of the Federal Reserve, the most critical personnel choice affecting the economy that he'll make in his presidency
7:23PM ( 1 day ago )
GOP Sen. Flake, a vocal Trump critic, won't seek re-election
GOP Sen. Jeff Flake has announced he will not run for re-election in 2018
6:40PM ( 1 day ago )
GOP Sen. Flake, vocal Trump critic, won't seek re-election
GOP Sen. Jeff Flake announced Tuesday he would not run for re-election in 2018, condemning in a speech aimed at President Donald Trump the "flagrant disregard of truth and decency" that is undermining American democracy
4:43PM ( 1 day ago )
General Senate Election News
Thailand grieves in elaborate final goodbye to King Bhumibol
Grieving Thais mourned on Bangkok's streets or at viewing areas around the nation as elaborate funeral ceremonies were held for King Bhumibol Adulyadej followed a year of mourning
12:20AM ( 6 minutes ago )
The Latest: Hernandez RBI single ties Game 2 at 5-all
Enrique Hernandez hit an RBI single with two outs in the 10th inning and the Los Angeles Dodgers are tied 5-all with the Houston Astros in Game 2 of the World Series
12:09AM ( 16 minutes ago )
Brazil's Temer survives corruption vote, but can he lead?
Brazilian President Michel Temer may have saved his job by convincing a small majority in Congress not to suspend him and put him on trial for corruption, but his scandal-rocked government appears more weakened than ever
12:02AM ( 24 minutes ago )
The Latest: Astros lead 5-3 after 2 homers in 10th
Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa have hit back-to-back home runs in the 10th inning to put the Houston Astros ahead 5-3 in Game 2 of the World Series
11:46PM ( 40 minutes ago )
Nets overcome James' triple-double, beat Cavs 112-107
Spencer Dinwiddie made the go-ahead 3-pointer with 43 seconds left while starting for the injured D'Angelo Russell, and the Brooklyn Nets overcame LeBron James' first triple-double of the season to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers 112-107
11:39PM ( 46 minutes ago )