Arizona Senator Jeff Flake announced last week that he wouldn't seek another Senate term. It's not at all clear what that means yet.
I didn't like Flake, but I thought he was a better choice than "Chemtrail" Kelli Ward, the Bannon-endorsed candidate who was running against him in the primary (and, according to current polls, was likely to beat him handily). I was strongly considering voting for Flake in the primary and against him in the general.
I don't agree with Flake on the vast majority of issues, but I think he really is sincere, honest, and principled. He helped save Scalise's life after the shooting in June, and never tried to make political hay of it. He defended a possible Democratic opponent against his own supporters when they smeared her for being Muslim. When other Republicans were canceling town halls, he faced an audience of protesters and even stayed late to talk to people one-on-one. Hell, here's a video where he holds the door open for someone following him around in a chicken costume.
It's chicken to vote to repeal health care for hundreds of thousands of Arizonans. @JeffFlake learned that last night when he arrived home. pic.twitter.com/66SCRp2R9E
— Save My Care (@SaveMyCare) August 4, 2017
All in all, I think Flake is probably a decent human being. I think his criticisms of Trump come from a place of genuine moral concern, not political calculation. (And if it was political calculation, oof, he sure miscalculated.) That said, his objections to Trump seem to be almost entirely on tone, not on substance; he agrees with Trump on economics, healthcare, choice, and government surveillance, to pick a few nasty examples off the top of my head.
But, non-trivially, he's strongly criticized Trump's racism. He vocally opposed Trump's travel ban, and for years he's one of a handful of congressional Republicans who's favored immigration reform. That doesn't excuse all the issues I disagree with him on, strongly, but I do think it's worth recognizing and praising a bad politician who does a good thing.
But I'm not gonna miss the guy. At least, not unless somebody even worse takes his seat.
Right now the frontrunners for the nomination are Kelli Ward (R) and Kyrsten Sinema (my rep, the most conservative Democrat in the House). But that could change.
FiveThirtyEight has a pretty good article called How Does Jeff Flake’s Retirement Change The Arizona Senate Race? and KJZZ's The Show had a discussion about Flake as well. Both pieces note that, while Ward's currently the Republican frontrunner by default, there's plenty of time for another candidate to enter the primary. In fact, that's almost certainly what Flake is counting on: he wants his seat to be filled by someone who's like him, but more electable. I see a lot of people saying Flake's a coward because he's quitting instead of staying and fighting, but quitting is honestly his best shot at keeping a Trump-friendly candidate out of his seat.
I think Sinema's got the best chance to win a Senate seat of any Arizona Democrat in thirty years. Just how good a chance isn't clear yet. Her conservative record, while deeply frustrating to liberal constituents like myself, will be an asset in a statewide election, she'll be running for an open seat instead of against an incumbent, and midterm elections usually favor the opposition party, especially if the President is incredibly unpopular. Flake's was the most vulnerable Republican seat in the Senate before he announced his retirement, and it still is.
But even assuming Sinema is the nominee -- and the primary's not until August -- we don't know who she'll be running against. I think she'd stand a good chance against Ward, but not decisively so; I'm legitimately worried that Ward could win.
And if it's not Ward, then who? We don't even know who else will enter the race at this point, if anyone. There's plenty of speculation -- Graham, DeWit, McSally, Schweikert -- but nobody's announced yet.
But shit, I'm getting ahead of myself. Never mind next year -- don't forget to vote next week.