Senator Flake says he’s concerned for Arizona’s future

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One day after he announced he would not run again for senate because of the current state of the Republican Party, Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake says he concerned about Arizona’s political future.

Political analyst Kevin DeMenna discusses Flake’s choice and what it means to Arizona politics.

DeMenna, who considers himself a friend of Flake, thinks Flake’s choice to resign was correct. He also believes the larger trend in the Republican Party will lead to a “winnowing,” especially in Arizona. “It’s going to be Gettysburg.”


Coming up next on "Arizona Horizon, we'll take a look at a program that's helping to cut the recidivism rate at a local women's prison. And we'll discuss the challenges facing disabled workers in the workplace. Those stories next, on "Arizona Horizon."

"Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the friends of Arizona PBS, members of your PBS station. Thank you.

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I’m Ted Simons. Arizona Senator Jeff Flake met with the media today to talk about his decision not to for re-election. In a telephone press conference, flake expressed concern about the future of Arizona.

Flake: I am concerned about where we are going as a party. I am concerned with candidates who simply, as they are campaign or platform just say, I agree with the president, or whatever the president wants. That's not what Arizona needs. Arizona needs senators that are not a rubber stamp to the party. President trump today reacted to flake's decision to not run for reelection.

Trump: His poll numbers are terrible. He did terrible for the state of Arizona a state that likes Donald Trump very much. He never would have won even in the primary. He did the smart thing for himself. This way he can get out somewhat gracefully.

Here now talk about how all this is impacting the republican party in Arizona is political consultant Kevin Demenna of demenna public affairs. Good to see you.

Kevin DeMenna: Good to be here.

Ted Simons: What are your thoughts on all of this?

Kevin DeMenna: It's extraordinary. In the words of Donald Trump, it's epic. We have not just a tsunami hitting the beach, we have many. Senator McCain’s health puts us on a trajectory we know he won't hold that office long. This announcement, which is two things -- it is announcing that there will not be the battle we were all expecting. In so doing, creating an opening that he will have unprecedented movement in Arizona politics.

Ted Simons: In so doing, did he abandoned republicans in Arizona?

Kevin DeMenna: As Ronald Reagan and others have said, I’m not sure if I left the party or the party left me. This man has been unwavering. I'm a friend and patriot, so my bias should come through. I think he did it the right way. Writing the book was the canary in the mine. This is who I am. This is how I intend to govern. The push back was unrelentless. If you needed a clue, that was it.

Ted Simons: Apparently the journey was going to be rough. Stay in there, fight it, keep to your principles.

Kevin DeMenna: In some cases you are faced with a choice. Stick with your principles or adapt. I have seen this with many that end up in the center. It's a choice they make. Jeff made a choice, one he can be true to, one he can honor.

Ted Simons: President Trump talking about Senator Flake and Corker, both that are leaving. Mentioned there is great unity in the republic party right now. Is there great unity in the republic party right now?

Kevin DeMenna: Certainly not. The competition in the market produces better results. We'll see a winnowing in Arizona. The control of the senate, perhaps the direction of the free world and the Trump agenda will rise or fall on these two seats, Jeff Flake in Nevada the same level. Three senate seats. It's going to be Gettysburg.

Ted Simons: Is Donald Trump the most popular republican in arizona?

Kevin DeMenna: No. Let's be clear about that. Realistically, it's proven now, the research is showing 1/3 of likely republic voters, those likely to turn out support the president unwaveringly. It's not about policy so much as disruption.

Ted Simons: Jeff Flake called it a spell. Is it akin to a spell?

Kevin DeMenna: I think it's another season in the political world. The last senate race, Twitter, Instagram six years ago weren't a thing. Media cycles used to occur 24 hours. They occur in the time it took me to complete that sentence now. It's different. It will be expensive. I don't know if Arizona will be better off.

Ted Simons: Senator Flake, this is a political decision for him. He had a rough road ahead and saw the better of it. You are saying a third of republics are lock stock and barrel behind Trump. For this office -- god forbid McCain can't fill the office much longer, whatever case, you have two openings. Senator Flake said you have to agree with President Trump on everything or get blow back.

Kevin DeMenna: Realistically, Jeff Flake -- and John McCain said this, the only productive thing to date is the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch. The thing I hear is style matters. Most want to deal with Obama Care, tax reform. Getting there, the type of dialogue, the new narrative. Nastiness doesn't serve. It's not a way to engage.

Ted Simons: It is a way -- goodness gracious, everyday the president talks about his favorite topic, the president. Senator flake was talking about how he has to answer to his kids. You have people all over the country saying don't act like the president, do what I tell you to do.

Kevin DeMenna: Barry GoldWater was a disrupter. Ronald Reagan was a disruptor. This party is disruption and much the better for it.

Ted Simons: Do you think Jeff Flake returns to objective politics?

Kevin DeMenna: My guess he is soured on it today. He's young. I wouldn't rule him out in the future.

Ted Simons: In the republic party?

Kevin DeMenna: yes.

Ted Simons: You think he will stay in the party?

Kevin DeMenna: We all need to continue to make -- I’m sure the democrats have similar discussions -- the party what we want it to be.

Ted Simons: Some would argue that the republic party right now is the party it wants to be.

Kevin DeMenna: Srguably as a card-carrying member, our core principles of economic freedom and liberty remain unchanged. As we wander into the social side it's more complicated. In this instance, after Hillary, the democratic party will be different and post this election cycle, the republic party will look different, I’m sure.

Ted Simons: We have a minute left. Give me names that will be on the republic side.

Kevin DeMenna: Three or four people. Matt Salmon, it's his to lose. Right now, the national focus is on this man. He walked away from it all at the peak and returned home. I know he's getting enormous pressure and attention. Top of the food chain, Jay Heiler. How this works out for Kelly Ward isn't good. The loser, kyrstan Sinema and Kelly Ward.

Ted Simons: All right, we'll keep an eye on what's going on. Coming up on "Arizona Horizon," we'll hear about a program that's helping to cut the recidivism rate for women inmates.

Kevin DeMenna: DeMenna Public Affairs

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