Arizona GOP Senate candidate: ‘I am distancing myself from Steve Bannon’

Arizona GOP Senate candidate: ‘I am distancing myself from Steve Bannon’
© Greg Nash

Republican Arizona Senate candidate Kelli Ward is distancing herself from Stephen Bannon following the former Breitbart News executive's dramatic break with President TrumpDonald John TrumpConservatives express concern over House GOP immigration bill Poll: McSally holds 14-point lead in Arizona GOP Senate primary Trump defends Nielsen amid criticism over family separations MORE.

“He was never part of my campaign,” Ward, a former state senator, said in an interview on CNN Thursday. “He was never an adviser. He was not somebody that I’d reach out and talk to in any way shape or form, so it’s funny that you and the establishment would love to tie me to Steve BannonStephen (Steve) Kevin BannonBannon says Trump should fire Rosenstein if he doesn’t comply with subpoenas Bannon on migrant family separation: Zero tolerance doesn't have to be justified Hillicon Valley: Fallout from bombshell DOJ report on Clinton probe | AT&T win could see new wave of mergers | World Cup cyber warning | Facebook comms chief stepping down MORE.”

Ward added that she is unsure whether she “ever got a full endorsement from Steve,” although she once touted his endorsement along with those her other high-profile backers, including conservative pundit Sean Hannity and Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSenate passes 6B defense bill This week: House GOP caught in immigration limbo Amendments fuel resentments within Senate GOP MORE (R-Ky.).

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Several advisers to a pro-Trump outside group that Bannon once used as his vehicle for campaign endorsements are working on Ward’s campaign. On several occasions over the last year, Ward also met privately with Bannon or attended Breitbart events where he was a featured speaker.

But Bannon has been banished from Trump’s circle following the release of Michael Wolff’s book “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” in which the former White House chief strategist disparages Trump’s family. Those remarks also cost Bannon his position as chairman of Breitbart News.

Bannon’s endorsement was once coveted by insurgent candidates like Ward, but many of those candidates are backtracking fast and siding with Trump in the explosive dispute with Bannon.

“I am distancing myself from Steve Bannon," Ward said. “He’s made some significant mistakes, significant gaffes that are unacceptable to me. I support the president, I support the president’s family.”

Ward is running to replace Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakePoll: McSally holds 14-point lead in Arizona GOP Senate primary GOP senators introduce bill to prevent family separations at border McCain, Coons: Trump should withdraw controversial refugee nominee MORE (R-Ariz.). Flake, who is among Trump’s most vocal critics, opted to retire from Congress rather than face a primary that was certain to pit him against the president’s energized base of supporters.

Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, whom Trump pardoned last year, jumped into the primary race this week, and Rep. Martha McSallyMartha Elizabeth McSallyPoll: McSally holds 14-point lead in Arizona GOP Senate primary Dems seek to seize on data privacy as midterm issue Arizona GOP Senate candidate walks back past support for 'fringe' candidate Paul Nehlen MORE (R-Ariz.) is also said to be mulling a bid.