1/10/2018 1:49:00 PM Arpaio's decision to run for Flake's seat shakes up the Senate race in Arizona
PHOENIX (AP) — Former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s announcement that he’ll run for the Senate seat being vacated by fellow Republican Jeff Flake potentially pits two conservative, pro-Donald Trump candidates against each other and could create an opening for a more moderate GOP contender to take the seat.
Arpaio made the announcement Tuesday, injecting new uncertainty and attention into the race that’s already among the year’s most-watched.
If Arpaio follows through and files his candidacy papers, the race could feature one of President Trump’s most vocal supporters trying to replace one of his fiercest detractors. Flake has constantly criticized the president.
Until now, the Republican front-runner in the race has largely been considered to be Kelli Ward, a former state senator. Arpaio’s entry could hurt her chances.
“I think he would just suck up most of her support. He is a much more prominent and visible person, he’s been around so long,” said David Berman, a senior research fellow at Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute of Public Policy. “Most people who like Trump generally gravitate toward Arpaio.”
A Senate campaign by the 85-year-old Arpaio also might aid a more moderate Republican by splitting the vote.
One possibility is U.S. Rep. Martha McSally, who colleagues say is planning a Senate run but has not yet made an announcement.
McSally has courted Trump’s support in recent months while still presenting herself as middle-of-the-road. She is also seen as a strong GOP contender for the Senate seat in a possible run against Democratic U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, who represents Arizona’s 9th District and has also positioned herself as a moderate candidate.
Zachery Henry, a Ward spokesman, said members of the campaign don’t believe Arpaio would split the GOP vote to the detriment of Ward.
Ward, who lost a 2016 GOP primary to Sen. John McCain, has been endorsed by former Trump strategist Steve Bannon in her campaign to replace Flake.