Former President George W. Bush to appear at Valley fundraiser for Sen. Jeff Flake

Mar 14, 2017, 1:44 PM
(AP Photos)...
(AP Photos)
(AP Photos)

PHOENIX — Former President George W. Bush will be the key guest at a Phoenix-area campaign fundraiser for Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) next month, it was confirmed Tuesday.

The April 11 event will be held at the Paradise Valley home of Craig Barrett, a former Intel chairman and CEO. Barrett’s wife, Barbara, served as ambassador to Finland under Bush and was the first Republican female gubernatorial candidate in Arizona.

The appearance of a former president in support of his re-election campaign will likely be a welcome sight for Flake, who may face pressure from both his own party and the Democrats in 2018.

Earlier this year, BuzzFeed News reported Trump’s top adviser, Steve Bannon, is urging some of the president’s supporters with deep pockets to financially support a nonprofit called America First.

The group is being pitched as an advocacy group to support Trump’s presidential agenda. But America First could be used to try to oust politicians on both sides of the aisle who do not support the president through a cooperative called the Great America Alliance.

Flake has been a vocal opponent of President Donald Trump since the pair squared off at a GOP unity meeting prior to last year’s Republican National Convention.

The alliance is made up of several Trump-affiliated groups, including the Great America PAC that splashed $27 million on Trump’s election campaign. An unidentified high-level official in the group told BuzzFeed News that the Great America Alliance will “absolutely” target troublesome Republicans.

After Trump’s November election win, Flake said he was ready to put the past behind him and work with the president. Flake did support Trump’s vice president pick, Mike Pence, and approved of his Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch.

But that doesn’t mean Flake is out of the potential hot water. Far from it, actually.

A September report said Flake only has $594,000 in his re-election coffers, which is low for an incumbent senator who could face pressure from both the president and donors in 2018.

Flake’s re-election bid would likely be challenging even without external pressure. One challenger, former state Sen. Kelli Ward, announced her candidacy shortly after losing to Sen. John McCain in November and former Trump COO and Arizona Treasurer Jeff DeWit is considering tossing his hat into the ring.

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Former President George W. Bush to appear at Valley fundraiser for Sen. Jeff Flake