President Trump on Thursday said it was “great” to see Republican Kelli Ward challenging Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, whom the president labeled “toxic” and a “non-factor” in the U.S. Senate.
“Great to see that Dr. Kelli Ward is running against Flake Jeff Flake, who is WEAK on borders, crime and a non-factor in Senate. He’s toxic!” Mr. Trump tweeted.
The president’s open embrace of a primary challenger to a sitting Republican senator comes as Mr. Trump prepares to head to Phoenix next week for a campaign rally, where he could formally endorse the challenger to Mr. Flake, who has emerged as a prominent Republican critic of Mr. Trump.
Mr. Flake got some support later Thursday from fellow Arizona Sen. John McCain, who defeated Ms. Ward in a GOP primary last year en route to winning re-election.
“.@JeffFlake is a principled legislator & always does what’s right for the people of #AZ. Our state needs his leadership now more than ever,” Mr. McCain tweeted.
Mr. McCain was one of three Republican senators to vote against the GOP’s latest Obamacare repeal bill last month, which dealt a significant blow to the agendas of both Mr. Trump and many other congressional Republicans.
Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton has urged Mr. Trump to postpone the rally, which is currently scheduled for Tuesday.
“I am disappointed that President Trump has chosen to hold a campaign rally as our nation is still healing from the tragic events in Charlottesville,” Mr. Stanton said in a statement.
Mr. Trump said recently that he’s considering a pardon of Mr. Arpaio, after the former sheriff of Arizona’s Maricopa County was convicted of contempt of court for ignoring a judge’s order that he stop using traffic enforcement to try to sweep up illegal immigrants.
The Phoenix mayor was also unenthusiastic about such a prospect.
“If President Trump is coming to Phoenix to announce a pardon for former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, then it will be clear that his true intent is to enflame emotions and further divide our nation,” Mr. Stanton said.
“It is my hope that more sound judgment prevails and that he delays his visit,” he said.
© Copyright (c) 2017 News World Communications, Inc.
This content is published through a licensing agreement with Acquire Media using its NewsEdge technology.