Tags: John McCain | jeff flake | arizona | kelli ward | senate

Stunner: Sen. Jeff Flake's Open Seat Likely to Be Filled by Democrat

Stunner: Sen. Jeff Flake's Open Seat Likely to Be Filled by Democrat
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz. (Rex Features/AP)

By Wednesday, 15 November 2017 11:22 PM Current | Bio | Archive

Two weeks after Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., announced his retirement in 2018, Republicans in the Grand Canyon State remained broadsided.

Seeking to fill the void, many Republican candidates were left with thin coffers: A Data Orbital poll among likely Republican voters showed Kelli Ward, who had been challenging Flake from the right, at 26 percent, followed by Rep. Martha McSally (the first woman pilot in Congress) at 19 percent, former Rep. Matt Salmon with 10 percent, Rep. David Schweikert with 5 percent, and former Rep. John Shadegg (who has since announced he is not running) with 4 percent.

In contrast, Democrats have someone running who is perceived as their most formidable candidate and has all-but-wrapped up the nomination: Kyrsten Sinema, who has won three terms in the marginal 9th District.

At first glance, it would appear Sinema, 41, would be doomed to defeat in historically conservative Arizona. As a state senator, she was named the Sierra Club's "Most Valuable Player" and also won the Planned Parenthood "Choice" Award. She also happens to be the first openly bisexual member of Congress.

Sinema has been chairwoman of a committee to fight a 2008 statewide initiative banning same-sex marriage (it passed) and she was with a coalition to defeat another initiative banning affirmative action programs (it was defeated).

But more than a few Arizona political observers believe she could win simply because Republicans have no obvious candidate and face the specter of a divisive primary.

As Robert Robb, political columnist for the Arizona Republic, told Newsmax: "There's no one waiting in the wings strong enough to deter other candidates, as [John] McCain and [former GOP Sen. Jon] Kyl did when they made their first bids for the Senate."

No one in state Republican circles believes Kelli Ward will simply be handed the nomination now that Flake is out. At least half-a-dozen GOP officeholders are reportedly eyeing the Senate primary.

State Treasurer Jeff DeWit, an early Trump supporter, has reportedly ruled out a bid for the Senate. Four-term Rep. Schweikert, a solid conservative and member of the House Freedom Caucus, is seriously exploring a Senate bid, sources told Newsmax.

"David Schweikert has been assumed interested," said the Republic's Robb. "But he's not strong enough to chase others out of the race. There will be legions looking at it, but no one has been standing in the wings."

Since Barry Goldwater returned to the Senate in 1968 (four years after giving up his seat to run for president), Republicans have easily won Senate seats in part because obviously strong candidates for open seats scared off other contenders and thus avoided contested primaries. McCain (1986), Kyl (1994), and Flake (2012) are all examples of this.

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.

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Two weeks after Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., stunned his state and the nation by announcing his retirement in 2018, about the only sure thing Republicans in the Grand Canyon State can say is their nomination for the now-open seat is wide-open and unpredictable.
jeff flake, arizona, kelli ward, senate
Wednesday, 15 November 2017 11:22 PM
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