TUCSON (CN) — Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake’s withdrawal from the 2018 race is likely to lead to an in-state Republican bloodbath that will stretch well into next year, a University of Arizona political science professor said Wednesday.
Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema, a former social worker who represents the Ninth Congressional District in urban and suburban Phoenix, is expected to be the Democratic nominee.
But “what’s going to be likely is a pretty serious bloodbath on the Republican side,” said Thomas Volgy, a former Tucson mayor and city councilman, who has been on the University of Arizona faculty since 1971.
Three Republicans have announced: porn website founder Craig Brittain, whose campaign site boasts that InfoWars and Breitbart frequently quote his works; pharmacist Nicolas Tortura, who says he will fight what he calls the “unelected deep state” in Washington, D.C.; and former emergency room physician Kelli Ward, an outspoken Trump supporter who was leading Flake in several polls when the incumbent left the race.
Others who garnered attention but have not announced for the Republican primary include former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio; Congresswoman Martha McSally, a former combat pilot who represents District 2, covering about half of Tucson’s metropolitan area; and former Gov. Jan Brewer.
Flake’s absence could energize Democrats, several of whom have already announced and who will try to take advantage of the Republican infighting, Volgy said.
These include Deedra Aboud, a Scottsdale attorney and Muslim activist since Sept. 11, 2001; Jim Moss, a former teacher who runs a trading post in rural Globe; and attorney and New York City native Chris Russell, who says he is running to foster cooperation in Washington.
Other possible candidates who did not register in a recent poll conducted by CB Polling include retired administrative law judge Richard Sherzan, and air-show pilot Bob Bishop.
Republican frontrunner Ward, a former state senator from western Arizona, unsuccessfully challenged Sen. John McCain in the 2016 primary.
She has not been without controversy.
When McCain announced this year that he had an aggressive form of brain cancer, Ward immediately called on him retire. She has drawn criticism for granting an interview to right-wing radio host Alex Jones, and for hosting a town hall meeting about so-called "chem trails." Some conspiracy theorists see this vapor left behind by commercial jets as a biological agent wreaking unknown effects upon an unsuspecting public.
The Senate Leadership Fund, a Republican political action committee, pounced on that in August, releasing an ad calling her “Chem-trail Kelli” and deriding her for suggesting restraint in the fight against the Islamic State group.
Volgy foresees at least two key problems for Ward: independent voters don’t like Trump, whom she supports, and 30 percent of Arizona’s population is Latino, while Ward ardently supports Trump’s proposed border wall.
Republicans will want a nominee who can bring in Arizona’s substantial population of independent voters, Volgy said. “I don’t think Ward will be able to do that,” he added.
According to the Arizona Secretary of State’s website, checked Friday morning, there are 1.3 million registered Republicans in Arizona, 1.1 million registered Democrats and 1.3 million “other,” mostly independents.
The primary fights will be lengthy in Arizona. While most states hold their primaries in May or June, Arizona’s will be on Aug. 28, 2018, which should make for a long, hot summer.