Election 2020

5 Potential Conservative Replacements for Sen. Jeff Flake

UNITED STATES - AUGUST 03: Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and his wife Cheryl, are seen in the Capitol before the last votes in the Senate that start recess on August 3, 2017. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call) (CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

On Tuesday, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) announced he would not run for re-election in 2018. The Senate Leadership Fund super PAC announced it would not support the current frontrunner, state Sen. Kelli Ward.

“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,” Steven Law, president and CEO of the super PAC, declared in a statement Tuesday.

As of Wednesday morning, there are only three declared candidates in the race: Ward, pharmacist Nicholas Tutora, and Craig Brittain, who founded the controversial revenge porn website IsAnybodyDown and has an alternative to Uber called Dryvyng (seriously). Brittain has also allegedly referred to himself as “a f**king genius and a legend,” saying that people he has never met “should be honored to even be in my presence.”

Ward has a solid lead in the primary, but Flake’s dropping out should change the entire dynamic of the race. The Hill has even listed deep-red Arizona as a state in which Democrats might steal the Senate seat from Republicans because Ward has many problems of her own.

Here is a list of five potential conservative candidates to run against Ward and replace Flake.

1. John Shadegg.

Shadegg has longstanding conservative credentials, going all the way back to Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-Ariz.), the conservative hero who ran for president in 1964. He represented Arizona in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2011.

In the early 2000s, Shadegg served as chairman of the Republican Study Committee (RSC). He joined the race for House majority leader in 2006 as a compromise between Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio). National Review, the Club for Growth, The Arizona Republic, and RedState all supported his bid.

Shadegg opposed Obamacare early on, called for the investigation of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), and opposed a deadline for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq. He also championed the Enumerated Powers Act, a measure that requires any bill passed by Congress to explicitly state where the Constitution gives Congress the power to make that law.

Shadegg has not suggested his interest in the race, but he would be a powerful challenger for Ward.

2. Martha McSally.

Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) was the first woman to fly in combat and the first woman to command a U.S. Air Force fighter squadron. She also sued the Department of Defense (DOD), successfully striking down the military policy requiring U.S. and UK servicewomen stationed in Saudi Arabia to wear the body-covering abaya.

McSally won election to Congress in 2014 and re-election in 2016. In her first term, she had seven bills approved by the House, making her third in the number of bills she authored that have made it through the House. She has written many “narrowly drawn proposals to improve homeland security or to help veterans.”

McSally has voted with her party in 96 percent of votes in the current Congress, and has voted with President Trump’s position 100 percent of the time. She also ranked the 30th most bipartisan member of the U.S. House, and the second most bipartisan member from Arizona.

She supports local control of education and opposes government funding for renewable energy. She opposed the Iran nuclear deal, called for reduced funding for U.S. military bands, and firmly opposed Obamacare, voting for the “imperfect” American Health Care Act (AHCA).

McSally is firmly pro-life and opposes same-sex marriage (but accepts the 2015 Supreme Court decision), but she has been criticized for being less than transparent with the press. She would present a very strong opposition to Ward, and a powerful symbol of female leadership for the Republican Party.

3. David Schweikert.

Rep. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.) has an impressive pro-life story and a solid background in both Arizona state politics and the U.S. House.

Schweikert was born to an unwed mother who almost had an abortion but chose instead to put him up for adoption, according to the congressman. This has made pro-life activism a very personal issue for him. The National Right to Life has given him a 100 percent rating.

While Schweikert only served two terms in the Arizona House of Representatives (1991-1994), his Republican colleagues elevated him to majority whip due to his solid conservative record. After an unsuccessful U.S. House run in 1994, he served on the state Board of Equalization, overseeing billions in valuations and tax protests from Arizona citizens and businesses. In 2004, he was appointed chief deputy treasurer of Maricopa County, and he was elected treasurer that same year.

In his unsuccessful U.S. House run in 2008, Schweikert received support from the Club for Growth, the Arizona Police Association, Arizona Right to Life, and the Arizona Medical Association. He blamed his loss to the Democrat on a very divisive primary. He finally won election in 2010, and has served in the House ever since.

Schweikert has taken a strong stance against illegal immigration and sanctuary cities, but he also supports a temporary guest worker program once the border is secure. He opposed the Iran deal, supports Second Amendment rights (receiving an “A” from Gun Owners of America and the National Rifle Association), and opposes any tax increases. He also opposed Dodd-Frank, the EPA’s regulations on greenhouse gases, and NSA surveillance.

4. Jan Brewer.

Former Governor Jan Brewer would throw a powerful wrench into the race. A vocal supporter of Trump from early on, Brewer is well-known for a strong stance against illegal immigration. Last year, Trump even said he would consider her as his running-mate. While Trump has said favorable things about Ward in the race, Brewer’s entrance might push Trump into opposing the candidate of Steve Bannon.

Brewer handled a multibillion-dollar budget shortfall early in her term as governor. She reduced the size and scope of state government and pushed a temporary sales tax increase. When the tax increase expired in 2014, the state had a rainy day fund of $450 million.

Brewer bolstered business with capital investment, creating nearly 175,000 new jobs. She also simplified the tax code, reduced business property and equipment taxes, and cut the corporate income tax. She signed tort reform,  revamped K-12 school performance metrics, increased funding for charter schools, and made higher education more affordable.

Brewer led the fight against Obamacare, joining a coalition of 26 states in challenging it before the U.S. Supreme Court. Brewer did eventually expand Medicaid, however.

She reformed Arizona’s state personnel system, modeling it after the private sector with an at-will workforce and a performance management system.

Brewer also signed pro-life legislation, and the number of abortions among adolescents has dropped 32.5 percent since 2012. She also firmly supported Second Amendment rights, leading Guns & Ammo to rank Arizona the best state for gun owners.

5. Trent Franks.

Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) publicly withdrew from the 2018 Senate race, but Flake’s withdrawal alters the state of the race. Franks is a strong conservative advocate in the U.S. House with experience in Arizona’s state government as well.

After a brief stint in the Arizona House, Franks was appointed by Republican Governor Evan Mecham to head the Office for Children. In 1987, he founded the Arizona Family Research Institute, an organization affiliated with James Dobson’s Focus on the Family.

Franks entered the U.S. House in 2003, and has served in Congress ever since. National Journal has ranked him among the “most conservative” members, and he is a member of the RSC.

Like Shadegg, Franks called for the investigation of CAIR in 2009. He voted against Obamacare, has signed Grover Norquist’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge, and also signed an Americans for Prosperity pledge against any global warming legislation that would raise taxes.

A strong pro-life warrior, Franks criticized President Obama early on for reversing the Mexico City Policy, effectively sending “taxpayers’ money overseas to pay for the killing of unborn children in other countries.” He has emphasized the scourge of abortion on the black community, and proposed the 20-week abortion ban in 2013 and this year. He also helped found a crisis pregnancy center in Tempe, Ariz.

Born with a cleft palette, Franks has also been involved with Operation Smile, a global nonprofit.

Any of these five candidates would be a solid champion for conservatives, and could feasibly defeat Kelli Ward by August 2018. Each of them would likely perform better than Ward against the likely Democratic candidate, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), the first bisexual member of Congress.