Tag Archives: Kelli Ward

Arizona Politics in Flux

By Jim Ellis

May 16, 2017 — The Grand Canyon State is looking to be a focal point for the 2018 election cycle. Sen. Jeff Flake (R) stands for re-election amid poor approval numbers within his own Republican Party vote base, while an interesting movement is occurring in what promises to be a competitive re-election effort for 2nd District sophomore Congresswoman Martha McSally (R-Tucson).

Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson)

Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson)

The Democrats have a fundamental non-correctable problem facing them in the 2018 US Senate cycle. That is, they must defend 25 of the 33 in-cycle seats with arguably only two conversion targets. In Nevada, which should be their top opportunity, Republican Sen. Dean Heller has yet to even draw a serious opponent, though it is still early. Therefore, the impending Arizona contest, highlighted by the public feud between Sen. Flake and then-candidate Donald Trump, becomes a more viable Democratic target than one would normally surmise based solely upon Arizona voting history.

The Senate race has already drawn early cycle attention, generally involving potential statewide candidate Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix), the 9th District congresswoman. Seeing her raise almost $700,000 in the first quarter and holding $2.8 million in her campaign account was commonly interpreted as amassing funds for a statewide campaign.

Within the past 10 days, while being interviewed on a Phoenix radio show, Rep. Sinema indicated that she is running for re-election, seemingly removing herself from a Senate race. A day later her spokesperson claimed that nothing had changed and Sinema could well run statewide.

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Flake Dodges Political Bullet

By Jim Ellis

May 8, 2017 — Arizona US Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) announced at the end of last week in a Phoenix radio interview her intention to seek re-election next year, meaning she will not become a US Senate candidate.

Most observers believed she would be the strongest Democrat to oppose first-term Sen. Jeff Flake (R), and her robust first-quarter fundraising activity seemed to suggest she had something in mind beyond simply securing what was once a politically marginal district.

In the quarter, Rep. Sinema raised just short of $678,000, and holds a whopping $2.8 million cash-on-hand. This latter number is one million dollars more than even Sen. Flake’s reported total. The senator was more aggressive in the first quarter, however, raising $1.3 million in 2017’s opening months, but began with less in his campaign account.

Sinema backing away from a Senate challenge doesn’t mean Sen. Flake is home free, however. His intra-party battle scars from a national feud with then-candidate and later Republican nominee Donald Trump have not fully healed, so the senator harbors some GOP primary vulnerability at the very least. And, a wounded incumbent moving into the general election from a state with the capability of electing someone from the other party is not a scenario the national Republican Party leadership wants to see.

Currently, the senator’s announced primary opposition — former state Sen. Kelli Ward, who held veteran Sen. John McCain to a 51.2 – 39.9 percent Republican primary win in 2016 — has little in the way of assets with which to oppose Flake. According to her 1st quarter financial disclosure report, Ward raised $168,369 and has just under $104,000 in her campaign account.

Dr. Randall Friese (above) could prove to be a formidable opponent should he decide to run against  first-term Sen. Jeff Flake (R).

Dr. Randall Friese (above) could prove to be a formidable opponent should he decide to run against first-term Sen. Jeff Flake (R).

Ward is not Sen. Flake’s chief potential Republican threat, however. Waiting in the wings is state Treasurer Jeff DeWit, who has not yet entered the Senate race, but already has announced that he will not seek re-election to his current position. DeWit was President Trump’s Arizona campaign chairman, which could make this race all the more interesting if he were to become a Senate candidate.

Still, Sen. Flake’s electoral obstacles would not be in his rear-view mirror even if he only faces Ward in the primary and easily defeats her. With Rep. Sinema now out of the Senate race, a name moving up the Democratic potential candidate chart is state representative and doctor Randall Friese (D-Tucson), the surgeon who operated on former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Tucson) and saved her life from what easily could have been a mortal gunshot wound.

Several years after the Giffords surgery, Dr. Friese (left) decided to enter politics and was elected to the state House of Representatives in 2014, and then re-elected last November. He is now the body’s assistant minority leader. In addition to being an active trauma surgeon, the doctor is a professor of surgery at the University of Arizona College of Medicine.

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Senate ’18 Updates – Part I

By Jim Ellis

March 17, 2017 — As we approach the end of first quarter 2017, we see political maneuvering beginning to occur in many in-cycle US Senate states. Despite what columnists and news reporters are already saying about the Republicans potentially sustaining big mid-term losses in 2018, the Democrats have only one legitimate Senate target: Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV).

Unfortunately for them, Democrats must defend 25 of the 34 in-cycle seats (the latter number includes the Alabama special election), and this political fundamental is likely the key reason Republicans will hold the majority irrespective of what the political climate may be like at election time. Arguably, seven of the nine in-cycle GOP seats are located in some of the strongest Republican states in the nation. Today we take a look at the states alphabetically from Alabama through Maryland.

• Alabama: Appointed Sen. Luther Strange (R) has over a year to solidify himself politically before standing for election. He may well receive a Republican primary challenge because of the circumstances under which he was appointed to succeed Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sen. Strange, while the Alabama attorney general, was conducting an investigation into Gov. Robert Bentley (R), which was obviously stalled when the appointment was made. So far, no one has announced against Sen. Strange, but state Senate President Del Marsh (R) is a possible candidate.

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Flake Still Trailing
in Arizona Senate Race

By Jim Ellis

Feb. 15, 2017 — Just after the Nov. 8 election, Remington Research conducted a Republican voters’ statewide Arizona survey (Nov. 15-16; 1,122 likely 2018 Republican primary voters via automated response device), as we previously covered, and found Sen. Jeff Flake (R) to be in trouble … in his own primary. Now, a new poll seems to confirm Flake’s weakness.

The previous data showed the incumbent trailing state Treasurer Jeff DeWit (R), 42-33 percent, in a hypothetical Republican primary. The same sample found former state senator and 2016 US Senate candidate Kelli Ward tied with Flake, 35-35 percent. Ward attracted 40 percent of the vote against Sen. John McCain in the 2016 Republican US Senate primary. In a three-way race, DeWit led Flake and Ward, 38-30-15 percent, respectively. Perhaps most disconcerting for the senator was his favorability index among the Republican sample group, 30:49 percent favorable to unfavorable.

Now comes a new Political Marketing International poll (Feb. 7; 921 likely 2018 Republican primary voters via automated response device) that again brings warning signs to Sen. Flake. According to this current data, Flake actually trails Ward, 23-30 percent. DeWit, who has not committed to run for Senate though he did announce that he’ll retire as state treasurer, was not tested in this particular poll.

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McCain: A Bigger Target

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 2, 2016 — It is clear that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) is in a more precarious political position the day after his primary than the day before. On Tuesday, the veteran Arizona senator recorded only a 52-39 percent victory over his top challenger, former state Sen. Kelli Ward. Two other Republican candidates, Alex Meluskey and Clair Van Steenwyk, received a combined 9.1 percent of the GOP primary vote: 5.5 percent for Meluskey and the remainder for Van Steenwyk.

But Tuesday’s underlying numbers illuminate what is likely a greater McCain vulnerability for the fall campaign against 1st District Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Flagstaff): a weak Republican base.

Looking at the state’s 15 counties, Ward actually defeated McCain in three of them, Cochise, Navajo, and Mohave. Additionally, the senator only carried Apache County by 75 votes. Together, this suggests McCain is doing poorly on the Indian reservations, which is not unusual since the region is a Democratic stronghold, but these votes came from within his own party.

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Primary Preview – Part I

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 29, 2016 — Arizona and Florida voters go to the polls tomorrow in what has become the most important of the late summer primaries.

Today, we cover Arizona and half of the competitive Florida campaigns. Tomorrow, the remaining Sunshine State races will be updated. Resulting from the court-ordered mid-decade redistricting changes and an unusually large number of open seats, competition is developing in no less than 17 of the state’s 27 congressional districts. Both states also host critical Senate contests.

Arizona

• Senate: Sen. John McCain (R) is seeking a sixth term after originally winning in 1986, four years after his initial election to the House. What was thought to be a potentially competitive Republican primary at the outset seemingly fizzled when McCain drew a lesser primary opponent. For a time, it appeared that either Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Mesa) or Rep. David Schweikert (R-Fountain Hills/Scottsdale) might enter the statewide contest, but neither chose to do so. In fact, Rep. Salmon would later decide to retire altogether.

Former state Senator Kelli Ward, who resigned her position in order to spend her full energies in challenging McCain, has raised about $1.5 million, but it would likely require more in the way of resources and outside support to deny the veteran incumbent and former Republican presidential nominee a re-nomination victory. Expect Sen. McCain to do better than his 56 percent Republican primary performance in 2010.

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McCain Teetering

By Jim Ellis

May 20, 2016 — A new Public Policy Polling survey (May 13-15; 896 registered Arizona voters, 443 likely Republican primary voters) provides further evidence that the Arizona Senate race will attract a great deal of attention in the fall campaign. If this data is accurate, then the Aug. 30 Republican primary will be noteworthy, too.

According to the results, five-term Sen. John McCain (R) holds only a 42-36 percent lead over Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Flagstaff) in the general election pairing. Though the ballot test presents an ominous sign for McCain, this data is actually better for him than an April Behavior Research Center study. That poll found he and Rep. Kirkpatrick tied at 42 percent.

But this PPP survey, for the first time, shows McCain becoming potentially vulnerable in the Republican primary. The senator has four Republican primary challengers, including former state Sen. Kelli Ward.

According to the primary ballot test question, McCain would only lead the GOP field with 39 percent, followed by Ward who registers 26 percent support. Adding all of the minor candidates together totals an additional nine percentage points, with 27 percent undecided. If McCain and Ward are isolated in a one-on-one contest, the two are actually tied with 41 percent apiece.

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An Arizona Senate Update; Louisiana Governor Polling

Nov. 17, 2015 — The Rocky Mountain Poll, from the Behavior Research Center (Oct. 24-Nov. 5; 577 registered Arizona voters), brings us the Arizona Senate race’s most recent snapshot both for the Republican primary and Sen. John McCain’s (R) general election pairing.

Though the sample period of 13 days is unacceptably high, therefore creating a large polling error factor, the results at least provide us a reference point from which to begin serious monitoring of this campaign.

According to the results, Sen. McCain leads Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ-1) by an uncomfortably small margin, 37-31 percent, just a six-point spread. From McCain’s perspective, the poll’s most troubling aspect is his general election support figure topping out at only 37 percent. This could tie back to the large error factor, and because the pollsters gave the uncommitted/undecided response equivalent status to voicing a preference for one of the two major party candidates. In fact, 32 percent of the respondents said they are undecided. Therefore, not choosing a candidate became an easy and acceptable response.

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McCain Warning Signs

May 5, 2015 — Arizona Sen. John McCain (R), who is seeking re-election to a sixth term next year, is showing political weakness according to a new Public Policy Polling survey (May 1-3; 600 registered Arizona voters; 300 self-identified Arizona Republican voters).

According to the results, McCain’s job approval is in upside-down territory not only from the Grand Canyon State electorate at-large but from an isolated Republican cell sample, as well. PPP projects that the senator records only a 36:51 percent approval ratio before the general electorate. More troubling, he scores 41:50 percent favorable to unfavorable among Republicans.

Sen. McCain has long been a controversial figure with Republican Party base voters, and there is an active effort attempting to deny him re-nomination. So far, candidate recruitment has failed because only state Sen. Kelli Ward (R), who is not viewed as a substantial challenger, is willingly stepping forward to register a campaign committee.
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