PHOENIX — U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake is already facing a contentious re-election bid in 2018, with challengers in both the primary and general election, but another Arizona heavyweight said he may throw his hat into the ring.
According to the New York Times, Jay Heiler, an Arizona lawyer who is currently serving on the state’s Board of Regents, said in an interview that he is considering a Senate run in 2018, in an effort to unseat Flake.
Heiler is a close ally of former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who was an early supporter of President Donald Trump. Heiler said the state should have a senator who fully supports Trump.
“The president’s agenda is one which I wholeheartedly endorse. I have not seen the president advance anything which I don’t think is in the best interest of the country,” he said.
Flake has repeatedly taken aim at Trump in the past, and the pair have engaged in lively arguments online for months. In August, Trump hit the senator in a tweet, calling Flake “toxic” and encouraging a rival for his seat.
In response, Flake said he had better things to do than pay attention to Trump’s criticisms, adding that “it is what it is and we’ve got a lot of support around the state and we’ve got a good campaign. It’ll take care of itself.”
Even though Flake brought in $1.1 million in the third quarter of this year, bringing his campaign funds to $3.4 million, he is expected to face a a tough primary challenge from former State Sen. Kelli Ward.
Polls released in August showed that Flake trailing Ward by 14 points in next year’s primary, while a Public Policy Polling survey showed 62 percent of Arizonans said they disapprove of the work Flake has done.
Trump appeared to increase the effort to unseat Flake after reportedly meeting with two of the junior senator’s prospective primary opponents, state Treasurer Jeff DeWit and Robert Graham, former chairman of the Arizona Republican Party, in August.
Democratic Party could target Arizona as a ‘winnable’ state
But Flake is not just facing a tough battle from Republicans: U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona announced her run for Senate in September, making her the biggest name to enter the race for Democrats so far.
The Democratic Party is reportedly considering a strategy to flip the Senate race on its head, according to Politico. The strategy includes “elevating” the Republican party’s “most extreme option” in each race, which would ease the path of victory in Republican-leaning states.