Billionaire Trump ally backs Flake challenger in GOP primary

Billionaire Trump ally backs Flake challenger in GOP primary
© Greg Nash

New York hedge fund billionaire and conservative donor Robert Mercer has made a major investment in a super PAC supporting Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeCorker pressed as reelection challenges mount -trillion debt puts US fiscal house on very shaky ground Senate votes down Paul's bid to revoke war authorizations MORE’s (R-Ariz.) primary challenger, a sign that Trump’s allies may be girding for battle against Republican incumbents they view as insufficiently loyal to the president.

Mercer, a close ally of White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon and one of the most influential GOP donors in the country, has plowed $300,000 into a group backing former state Sen. Kelli Ward in her effort to unseat Flake.

Politico first reported the news.

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“We are so grateful to Mr. Mercer for his courageous support for Kelli Ward, a true conservative champion,” Kelli PAC chairman Doug McKee said in a statement. “Early investments in a campaign like this are so valuable.

“Kelli is in prime position to carry her message of accountable, Constitutional government all the way to the Unites States Senate. Interest from additional donors is pouring in, and we are confident that leadership like Mr. Mercer’s will allow us to run a robust winning effort all the way to November of 2018.”

Mercer, who along with daughter Rebekah Mercer invested heavily in the Trump campaign, previously gave $700,000 to Ward’s PAC in 2016, when she sought to unseat Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainSenate's defense authorization would set cyber doctrine Senate Dems hold floor talk-a-thon against latest ObamaCare repeal bill Overnight Defense: Senate passes 0B defense bill | 3,000 US troops heading to Afghanistan | Two more Navy officials fired over ship collisions MORE.

McCain won the primary, 50 percent to 41.

The White House has been frustrated by the lack of GOP support for Trump’s agenda on Capitol Hill. Republican efforts to repeal and replace ObamaCare — a campaign promise the GOP has been running on for seven years — have stalled in the Senate.

Trump’s allies are eager to see more Trump loyalists in office. Flake has been among the administration’s most vocal GOP critics. 

Flake has recently been making the rounds to promote his new book, “Conscience of a Conservative,” which argues that Republicans should have thwarted Trump’s rise and that it’s time for the party to reclaim conservatism from him.

There are still no signs from the White House about who Trump might back in the race. 

The White House political team met with Ward earlier this year. They also met with Arizona state Treasurer Jeff DeWit and former Arizona Republican Party Chairman Robert Graham, both of whom worked on Trump’s state campaign.