Senator Flake says he will not run again

More from this show

Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake drops a bombshell on the political world, announcing he will not run again for senate next year because of the current state of the Republican Party.

We discuss what this huge announcement means for Arizona and the nation with Chuck Coughlin, president of HighGround Public Relations Consultants and political analyst Chris Herstam.

ºº
Coming up next on Arizona Horizon, a bombshell announcement: Senator Jeff Flake is "not" running for re-election to the U.S. Senate. And a new report released today regarding the well-being of children. Those stories next on "Arizona Horizon."

Good evening and welcome to Arizona Horizon. I'm Ted Simons. Arizona Senator Jeff Flake today stunned Washington and sent shock waves through Arizona politics by announcing that he will "not" seek re-election to the senate next year. Flake made the announcement in an emotional speech in front of his senate colleagues.

Flake: Sustained incumbency is not the reason to seek office. There are times you must seek your principles. Now is the time. Mr. President, I rise today to say enough. We must never regard as normal the regular and casual undermining of our democratic normal and ideals. We must never meekly accept the sundering of our country. Reckless, outrageous behavior is excused as telling it like it is, when it is actually just reckless, outrageous and undignified. When such behavior eminent from the top of our government, it is something else. It is dangerous to a democracy. Such behavior does not project strength. Our strength comes from our values. It projects the spirit. We must stop pretending the conduct of some in our executive branch are normal. They are not normal. The notion that one should stay silent as the values of America are undermined and the stability of the world is threatened by the level of thought that goes into 140 characters. The notion that we should say or do nothing in the face of this, is a historic and I believe, misguided. Were the shoe on the other foot would we republics accept such dominant display from democrats? Of course, we wouldn't and we would not be right if we did. Glorifying in the things that divide us calling fake things true and true things fake.

Ted Simons: Arizona's senior senator John McCain reacted to the news shortly after flake's speech.

McCain: It's been one of the great honors of my life to have the opportunity to serve with a man of integrity and honor and decency and commitment to the united states of America. When the flake service to this country is reviewed, it will be one of honor, brilliance and patriotism and love of country. I thank you and god bless you and your family.

Ted Simons: White house spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders gave the administration's reaction to Flake's announcement. Based on previous statements and certainly based on the lack of support he has from the people of Arizona, it's probably a good move.
Ted Simons: Two politicians who had been running "against" Flake reacted with tweets, republican Kelli Ward tweeted, quote, "Arizona voters are the big winner in Jeff Flake's decision to not seek reelection. They deserve a strong, conservative in the senate who supports the president & the 'America first' agenda. Congresswoman Kirsten Sinema, who's running for Flake's seat as a democrat, tweeted by way of her campaign, quote, "with Jeff Flake retiring we must do everything we can to show that we are ready to win." Joining us now to discuss this extraordinary day and what it means for the state and the and the country, Chuck Coughlin, President of High Ground Public Relations Consultants, and on the left side of the aisle, consultant Chris Herstam, good to have you both here. Good to see you again. You are still a consultant, aren't you?

Chris Herstam: Law firm.

Ted Simons: Surprised? Shocked? What?

Chuck Coughlin: No. Honestly, not. I met the senator when he was running the gold water institute. He is described by the senior center today a principled conservative and the drift of the political system on the left and right and particularly the party he is, he's un accustomed to the place the party is in today and it's in conflict with his principles. Jeff was never a politician, there as an idea guy and he would have to compromise and he's uncomfortable doing it. He's unhappy with where the party is.

Ted Simons: He says there may not be a place for republics like me in the current republic climate. Does that ring a bell?

Chris Herstam: It does. I was one of those republics as well. I admire Jeff Flake. He is a man of integrity and decency, but he's been in congress 18 years. Bob Corker as well, they talk about how Donald Trump and the Trump administration is destroying democracy, but now they quit and go home. He occupies a senate seat. He has the power of the incumbency. It would have been a tough race in the primary, but he owed it to the party and the state and the ultimate fight against the Trump administration to hang in there and run for reelection. I'm disappointed that he had a big fundraiser last week with Condoleezza rice here and so forth. I think he realized he was toast politically in the republic primary and I don't think he's compromising his views. He doesn't have to do that in the campaign. I would like to see him fight to the end.

Ted Simons: Why not fight to the end? You can go down swinging.

Chuck Coughlin: I don't know that it's over. How did he become the U.S. Senator? The Senator Kyle said, I think you should succeed me. I don't think we have heard the last of Jeff Flake on who the next incumbent will be. There are three or four in the state to find somebody. The one thing I’m certain about is that there will be a republic primary in Arizona. I'm not saying that to underestimate the mount of anger that is around Kelly Ward's campaign. I do not underestimate that, but there are candidates that are capable of winning a primary and appealing to the broader cross section that may be acceptable to the white house. I'll name a couple now. Our current incumbent governor though his team said no and hell no, but he has the name i.d. And popular. He would clear the field of opponents. My favorite is Governor Brewer who I don't think would like to win but would clear the field, popular with republics and Trump administration. Both of those candidates are capable, and -- at least in the brewer case, popular with the state senior senator.

Ted Simons: Do you see Jan Brewer running for senate?

Chris Herstam: No, and I don't think she could win. Next to Kelly Ward all of the names sound great when you compare them but the people of Arizona want as their senator someone that will denounce and stand up to the Trump administration. Jan brewer is not going to do it. She's locked in as Arpaio is. I don't think governor Ducey will do it either. I don't think they'll be strong as you think.

Chuck Coughlin: People want to see the system work. Democratic party is in a reactionary mode to the Trump party. Martha McSally would get things done. She's executed on policy, gotten through congress, saved the i-10 in Tucson. There are candidates capable. People talk about Kyrsten Sinema. She voted against every one on the ballot. That's not to compromise. We have had enough of that in Washington.

Ted Simons: Kyrsten Sinema, does it help her opposed to damaged Jeff Flake or curious Kelli Ward?

Chris Herstam: It's now less predictable what's going to happen. I believe that as long as Steve Bannon endorses Kelli Ward, and I have no reason to believe he will change, Trump may decide now that he can stay out of the race because mission accomplished, Flake is gone, but as long as stave Bannon sticks with Kelli Ward, she's the defect toe candidate and she will win because of that. I think Kyrsten Sinema can defeat Kelli Ward in the general election.

Ted Simons: Bannon said that they'll push flake out. Is that what happened?

Chuck Coughlin: That's what he will say. Next will be in Alabama in December. He's forced Bob Corker out. They are doing their best to create purity in the republic party for the alt right movement. I agree with Chris that, that type of candidate is -- that candidate is not a viable general election candidate. Our data shows today both of them are relatively unknown, congress woman Sinema and Mrs. Ward. I say it will be the most negative campaign cycle in the history of Arizona.

Ted Simons: When you look across the aisle, they have to get someone through the primary, but they have to have that mindset to appease Trump voters. Trump is a rock star among Arizona republicans, a lot of them. They have to win over the general electorate.

Chris Herstam: I don't think it will happen. If you look at Trump voters in Arizona, it's falling like a rock. The democrats are not going to vote for a trump supporter. I think it looks very good for the democrats in the general election. I think the field will be clear for Kyrstan Sinema. She can save her money in the primary. She's a superb candidate, excellent television. I think she's the person to beat. I think Sinema will be the next senator.

Ted Simons: What is his political future?

Chuck Coughlin: Jeff's an intensely -- as you talked about, he's an intensely bright man. Does he go to the Caddo institute? He will have a role. He's sitting on $3 million. If he has a problem with the electoral system, how do you use that?

Chris Herstam: Are you saying that Jeff Flake with honor and integrity and decency is not going to give back the money he raised with Condoleezza rice?

Chuck Coughlin: We want him to help with open primaries. Let's be nice to the senator.

Chris Herstam: One more thing here, and this is difficult to discuss, I know everyone at this table admires John McCain and his fight against brain cancer, but the reality is that, that seat may be up for grabs in the near future. If that's the case, that plays for a republic congressional representative. Do they run now or wait and go for the McCain seat? We could be in an unusual situation where there are two open seats for the U.S. Senate. That makes the political field that much crazier.

Ted Simons: Last question from the right side of the aisle, is the republic party fundamentally changed?

Chuck Coughlin: I think both parties are flawed.

Ted Simons: Not just flawed, changed.

Chuck Coughlin: For the time being, in this cycle it has been. The senator spoke to that today. His passion for global free trade, immigration, and border security. Those are issues that have put him outside of what today is the republic party which is the mainstream of where the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, jobs and wall street, the banks, where they have been and why they have been supportive of the republic administration in the past. That's no longer the case. There is a fissure inside the republic party right now. I assume Jeff Flake will use his resources and talents to address that.

Ted Simons: From the democratic side, will the democrats miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity?

Chris Herstam: I don't think so. They have their best candidate possible in kyrstan Sinema. Her issue is protecting the middle class. I think that issue, especially after the republics attempt or pass a tax package that will basically benefit corporations in the upper 1%. The middle class issue that Kyrstan Sinema has been beating the drum on for a long time will resonate in the election.

Chuck Coughlin: She only found the drum when she got to Washington. She didn't do it in the state of Arizona.

Chris Herstam: She's been in Washington for several years.

Chuck Coughlin: She claims she's been on the republic bills. Not one has been signed into law.

Chris Herstam: I think she's the best candidate that the democrats have.

Chuck Coughlin: Let's see if Miss Kirkpatrick gets her immigration bill and see if she's a yes on that. That would be something to watch.

Ted Simons: I guess we'll stop right there. Up next on "Arizona Horizon," the report on the wellbeing of children.

Chuck Coughlin: President, HighGround Public Relations Consultants
Chris Herstam: Political Analyst

Morse & The Last Endeavour
airs June 11

Morse and The Last Endeavour: A MASTERPIECE Mystery! Special

Birdwatching Across Arizona
aired June 7

Birdwatching Across Arizona

Super Why characters

Join a Super Why Reading Camp to play, learn and grow

National Memorial Day Concert image
aired May 28

National Memorial Day Concert

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters

STAY in touch
with azpbs.org!

Subscribe to Arizona PBS Newsletters: