By Lisa Hagen
A Republican super PAC with ties to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday took a shot at former Arizona state Sen. Kelli Ward (R), arguing that she will not be the Republican nominee in the wake of Sen. Jeff Flake‘s (R-Ariz.) decision to not run for reelection.
Senate Leadership Fund (SLF) has been critical of Ward, who had launched a primary challenge to the right of Flake and has the backing of pro-Trump outside group Great America Alliance. Flake sent shockwaves throughout the political world when he announced on Tuesday that he wouldn’t run for a second term in 2018.
“Sen. Jeff Flake will be remembered for a distinguished and impactful career in Congress, as well as his independent streak and genial manner,” Senate Leadership Fund president Steven Law said in a statement.
“The one political upshot of Sen. Flake’s decision today is that Steve Bannon’s hand-picked candidate, conspiracy-theorist Kelli Ward, will not be the Republican nominee for this Senate seat in 2018.”
Flake’s departure will likely open up the Republican field and now leaves a spot open for a candidate as an alternative to Ward.
Former White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon, who had declared “war” against the GOP establishment, recently endorsed and campaigned with Ward in Arizona.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), the committee tasked with maintaining the party’s majority, also sent out a statement about Flake’s retirement, but didn’t mention Ward and only argued that the seat will remain red next year.
“While we are sad to see Senator Flake retire, we know that Arizona will stay in Republican hands after the upcoming election,” NRSC chairman Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) said in a statement.