Tuesday’s announcement by Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) that he would not seek re-election has set up a scramble by candidates hoping to join the United States Senate. Dr. Kelli Ward had already been challenging Sen. Flake for the GOP nomination at the time he announced his retirement, but former Arizona Republican Party Chair Robert Graham is bashing Dr. Ward as unelectable due to her fringe positions and conspiracy theories.
MSNBC senior national correspondent Chris Jansing interviewed and quickly asked him if he would be running for Arizona’s open senate seat.
“I definitely haven’t made a decision, as you can imagine, I’ve got six children,” Graham began, before Jansing followed-up by asking, “are you close?”
“Well, I’m close,” Graham answered, explaining his plans to visit Washington, DC.
“You have name recognition, have a donor base, you know your state from your time as chair. If you run, you would be facing former state Sen. Kelli Ward — and by proxy, Steve Bannon, who is supporting her,” Jansing noted.
“How big a hurdle is Steve Bannon’s support for Kelli Ward in your decision-making process? How much does that worry you?” Jansing asked.
“Any opposition that you have, especially with somebody that has influence, it’s a hurdle,” Graham admitted. “Our primaries are very late in Arizona… and you can win people like Steve Bannon over.
“You think he’d switch allegiances, is that’s what you’re suggesting?” Jansing asked.
“I would suggest that Kelli Ward, when she has real opposition, somebody that’s working hard, that has a command of the issues, that knows the state intimately, that Kelli will have a hard time even surviving as a primary candidate,” Graham suggested. “She’s going to have difficulty.”
One such difficulty may be Dr. Ward’s nickname, ‘Chemtrail Kelli’ — which even Arizona Republic news columnist EJ Montini used in his column explaining Sen. Flake’s exit from the political stage.
“Steve Bannon sees the opportunities we have as a nation, he wants it to move forward. I think anybody that has capacity beyond that of Kelli Ward, Steve Bannon will likely throw his support behind that person if he believes in him,” Graham predicted.
“Now the landscape has changed significantly. I’ll tell you, I’m hard-pressed to see Kelli Ward beating Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ),” the former GOP honcho admitted.
Graham may not be the only Arizona Republican sensing weakness. State Treasurer Jeff DeWit has also been exploring a senate bid.
Republican Governor Doug Ducey appointed Graham to the Arizona Commission of African-American Affairs while he held the post of GOP chairman.
Watch former Republican Chair Robert Graham make the case against Republican senate candidate Kelli Ward: