Some Tea Party activists aren't lamenting Rep. Jeff Flake's (R-Ariz.) decision to skip addressing the group's national convention in Phoenix this weekend.
Flake announced Feb. 14 his intention to succeed Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) in the upper chamber. With the House on recess, he's been free to campaign back in Arizona but isn't on the schedule to appear at the Tea Party Patriots' convention in Phoenix, which is expected to draw some 3,000 activists. One of Flake's potential rivals for the GOP Senate nod, former Rep. J. D. Hayworth, is expected to be there, but doesn't have a speaking slot.
Flake's decision to forgo addressing the convention could have something to do with the reception he'd receive from attendees.
"He would not be popular amongst this group because of his border stance," Ron Ludders, chairman of a Tea Party group called Arizona 2012 Project, told The Ballot Box. "You'll find that most Tea Party Patriots are really, really strong border people. Flake is not somebody that the Tea Partiers hold in high regard in terms of his [position] on border issues."
Flake has said any suggestion that he supports, or has ever supported, amnesty for illegal immigrants is nothing but a trumped-up charge his political opponents have tried to level against him in recent years.
"I'm sure some will try to allege that again," he recently told The Hill. "But that doesn’t stick. When they look at what I've supported, I've voted for every border-security piece of legislation there has been. I just recognize that nearly half of those who are here didn’t sneak across the border. They came legally and have overstayed, and you can’t ignore that population.”
A spokeswoman for Flake said the congressman was trying to stop by the convention after it opens Friday evening, but he will be on a trip to the Arizona-Mexico border over the weekend. The Tea Party's three-day convention features speeches from several potential presidential candidates including former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R), Texas Rep. Ron Paul (R) and businessman Herman Cain (R)