A cohort of state GOP officials in Arizona is trying to nudge Joe Arpaio out of the Senate primary race, according to a draft resolution the group plans to propose at the party’s annual meeting in Phoenix this weekend, according to The Arizona Republic, which broke the story.
The officials are worried the former sheriff would severely hamper Republicans’ chances of keeping outgoing Sen. Jeff Flake’s seat red in the general election were Arpaio to win the party’s nomination in the Aug. 28 primary.
The draft resolution praises Arpaio for his years of dedicated service in law enforcement and as an elected official in Maricopa County, but “respectfully urges” him to drop out of the race so U.S. Rep. Martha McSally and former state Sen. Kelli Ward can vie for the nomination without distraction.
Paul Marchant, a backer of the resolution, but not its author, told The Arizona Republic that preventing the seat from flipping was the main impetus for the resolution.
Marchant, an Arizona GOP legislative district chairman, described himself to the newspaper as an Arpaio supporter in the past. The resolution is not meant as “an anti-Arpaio thing,” he said.
But Marchant is concerned that Arpaio would lose a general election to Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, the Democratic front-runner in the race so far.
“Obviously, we don’t think he can win,” Marchant said. “Ultimately, if in a best-case scenario, he did somehow win the primary and by some miracle can beat Kyrsten Sinema, then we’ve got two 90-year-olds in the Senate,” he said, referring to Arizona’s senior Sen. John McCain, 81, and Arpaio, who will be 86 next January.
Some speculated that Ward, the former state senator, was behind the draft resolution, but that is not the case, Marchant confirmed.
In fact, Ward’s campaign said it did not endorse the resolution, even though she would likely benefit more than McSally from Arpaio exiting the race.
“Dr. Ward’s campaign is not urging other candidates to not run but is, instead, laser-focused on expanding statewide support to win the primary and general elections,” Zachery Henry, Ward’s press secretary, told The Republic in a statement. “We are confident that Dr. Ward’s proven track record, compelling message, and broad base of support across Arizona will be what propels her to the U.S. Senate.”
Arpaio refused to back down as members of his own party signaled their uneasiness with his candidacy.
“I’m a fighter and I’m not going to bow out,” he told The Republic. “I respect the nice words by whoever said this. They just made my case [for the Senate] by including all my background. I want to thank them for giving my history.”
Arpaio did not see why he should be the one to sacrifice himself.
“Why don’t the other two drop out? Why me?”
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