Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) announced on Tuesday that he will not run for re-election in 2018.
A late August poll showed Flake primary challenger Dr. Kelli Ward, a former Arizona state senator, ahead of Flake by double digits. The poll showed twice as many Arizona Republicans supporting Ward than Flake.
During Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, he is reported to have said he would consider spending $10 million to back a challenger to Flake.
In August, Trump tweeted that it was “great” to see Ward running against Flake:
— Dr. Kelli Ward (@kelliwardaz) August 17, 2017
Shortly after news broke of his plans to retire, Flake took to the floor of the U.S. Senate to explain his decision to abandon a re-election bid, blaming the tone and political values Trump brought to Washington.
Fellow senator from Arizona John McCain took the floor shortly after Flake on Tuesday and spoke of seeing Flake stand up for what he believes in. McCain said it was one of the great honors of his life to serve alongside Flake, whom McCain called “a man of integrity, and honor, and decency, and commitment to not only Arizona but the United States of America.”
In the wake of Flake’s announcement, Ward tweeted out the following Tuesday:
Arizona voters are the big winner in @JeffFlake‘s decision to not seek reelection. They deserve a strong, conservative in the Senate 1/2
— Dr. Kelli Ward (@kelliwardaz) October 24, 2017
Flake’s announcement comes just a few days after conservative radio host Laura Ingraham and Breitbart News Executive Chairman and former White House Chief Strategist Stephen K. Bannon campaigned for Ward in Phoenix.
Bannon was one of many conservatives that backed Judge Roy Moore in Alabama last month against establishment-backed Senator Luther Strange. Moore won the Republican primary runoff election in late September despite only having $1-2 million in support against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s hand-picked candidate’s tens of millions.
Just hours before Moore won the election, Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) announced he would not run for re-election.