June 1, 2018 — Candidate filing closed in Arizona Wednesday for the state’s Aug. 28 primary election, and the US Senate candidate fields are now set. Little in the way of surprise — barring last minute filers who have not yet been reported, the Republicans, who are attempting to replace retiring Sen. Jeff Flake (R), number three in total: US Rep. Martha McSally (R-Tucson), former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and ex-state senator and former US Senate candidate Kelli Ward. For the Democrat primary, US Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Phoenix) faces attorney Deedra Abboud, a minor candidate.
Remington Research just released the results of their latest Grand Canyon State GOP primary survey conducted last week (May 23-24; 2,011 likely Arizona Republican primary voters via an interactive voice response system). According to the data, Rep. McSally attracts 42 percent support as compared to ex-Sheriff Arpaio’s 25 percent, while Ward tallies 23 percent. In two other polls conducted in April, Rep. McSally led in one and Ward the other.
While the McSally advantage is 17 and 19 points over Arpaio and Ward in the most current survey, she led the former sheriff and the ex-state legislator, 36-26-25 percent in a mid-April Magellan Strategies poll. OH Predictive Insights, however, found Ward jumping out to a 36-27-22 percent advantage over Rep. McSally and Arpaio in their early April study.
McSally, a former Air Force combat pilot and squadron leader, is the Republican leadership’s candidate and would clearly be the strongest opponent against Rep. Sinema. Such a general election pairing could conceivably become the 2018 election cycle’s premier US Senate campaign.
It is commonly believed, and political observers report that such a sentiment also resides within the McSally campaign, that with both Arpaio and Ward competing in this race, their presence actually helps McSally. In almost every early poll, such a configuration has produced McSally leads of varying degrees, but none as strong as the Remington numbers revealed Wednesday.
Because both Ward and Arpaio come from the most conservative wing of the Arizona Republican Party, it is believed the faction will split between the two candidates, allowing the more centrist McSally to capture the nomination with a plurality vote. The available polling generally supports such a prediction.
Until the filing process became complete, speculation was common that Arpaio might not file. At the age of 85 and an individual who President Trump pardoned for a contempt of court conviction because the then-sheriff did not obey a judge’s order concerning certain immigration situations, many believed the early campaign was a vehicle for Arpaio to raise money to satisfy related legal bills. In several other years, Arpaio stated publicly that he would run for a statewide office but decided against it when candidate filing approached. In this instance, Arpaio did complete the steps to become an official candidate and is actively engaged in the 2018 Senate race.
Martha McSally was elected to the House in 2014, winning the closest congressional election in the country that year — a 161-vote victory over then-Rep. Ron Barber (D-Tucson). Despite Hillary Clinton carrying her 2nd District with a 50-45 percent margin in 2016, Rep. McSally was re-elected with 57 percent of the vote against a former state legislator.
Joe Arpaio was elected Maricopa County Sheriff in 1992 and served until his defeat in the 2016 election.
Kelli Ward was elected to the Arizona Senate in 2012 and re-elected in 2014. She resigned her seat in 2015 to concentrate on her 2016 US Senate Republican primary challenge to incumbent Sen. John McCain, a campaign she lost 51-39 percent.
Rep. Sinema won the 9th Congressional District in 2012, in a close 49-45 percent result for the newly created south Maricopa County seat anchored in Tempe. She would then average 58 percent in her two re-election campaigns. Prior to her congressional service, Sinema served three terms in the state House and one in the state Senate.