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 TrumpAccuser says Trump should be afraid of the truth Woman behind pro-Trump Facebook page denies being influenced by Russians Shulkin says he has White House approval to root out 'subversion' at VA 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 BannonIt’s time for conservatives to retire the term ‘alt-right’   Kurtz sees media forfeiting credibility in war with Trump Bannon wanted Trump to keep Yellen as Fed chair: report 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 PaulDem wins Kentucky state House seat in district Trump won by 49 points GOP's tax reform bait-and-switch will widen inequality Pentagon budget euphoria could be short-lived MORE (R-Ky.).

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 FlakeFlake to try to force vote on DACA stopgap plan Congress punts fight over Dreamers to March Outgoing GOP rep: Republican Party 'heading into trouble' in election 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 McSallyPacific Command chief: 'Fair' to criticize Olympic coverage of North Korea Overnight Finance: Shutdown looms | Paul holds up Senate vote | House GOP scrambles for budget votes | What's in the deal | Dow falls 1,000 points for second time this week | Conservatives threaten Fed nominee | Trump announces IRS pick House GOP leaders scramble for budget votes MORE (R-Ariz.) is also said to be mulling a bid.