(CN) – In a brief but scathing rebuke from the Senate floor Monday, U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican and outspoken critic of President Donald Trump, condemned fellow Republicans for failing to hinder the “mercurial” president and announced that he will not seek re-election next year.
Flake, a 16-year Capitol Hill veteran who served six terms in the House and one in the Senate, spurned GOP inaction in Washington and noted key institutions are undermined and longstanding alliances threatened by the current administration. Fearing enemies or primary challengers, many of his colleagues have remained silent, abdicating their defense of institutions and liberties, dishonoring their principles and forsaking their obligations, Flake said.
“Those things are far more important than politics,” he said.
Flake has clashed with the Trump administration on several fronts – in a book published in August and in numerous published articles and interviews. In his book “Conscience of a Conservative: A Rejection of Destructive Politics and a Return to Principle,” Flake called out his party for the cynical quest for power at the risk of freedoms and ideals.
“In this era of dysfunction, our primary accomplishment has been constructing the argument that we’re not to blame. We have decided that it is better to build and maintain a majority by using the levers of power rather than the art of persuasion and the battle of ideas,” he wrote of the book when it was released.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey thanked his fellow Republican for two decades of service to Arizona.
“Jeff was a voice for fiscal responsibility at the federal level before it was popular. I’ve appreciated his friendship, professionalism and intellect on policy issues impacting Arizona,” Ducey said via Twitter.
Flake’s primary challenger, Tea Party conservative and former emergency room physician Kelli Ward, said in a brief statement on her campaign website that Arizona voters win with Flake out of the picture.
“They deserve a strong conservative in the U.S. Senate who supports President Trump and the 'America First' agenda. Our campaign proudly offers an optimistic path forward for Arizona and America,” Ward said.
Flake is a fifth-generation Arizonan who was raised on a cattle ranch in the rural town of Snowflake. He represented the eastern portion of the Phoenix metropolitan area from 2001 to 2013 in the U.S. House of Representatives. He is a member of the Senate Judiciary, Energy and Natural Resources, and Foreign Relations committees and a former director of the conservative think tank the Goldwater Institute.
According to his Senate website, conservative organizations give him high marks: Americans for Prosperity gives him a 98 percent rating, National Taxpayers Union gives him an A, and Citizens Against Government Waste 96 percent.
Flake’s campaign website was showing only a brief statement thanking constituents and promising to “continue to advance the conservative principles I’ve believed in my entire life.”
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