Flake gets early 2018 primary challenger

Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeCheney clashes with Trump Sessions-Tuberville Senate runoff heats up in Alabama GOP lawmakers stick to Trump amid new criticism MORE (R-Ariz.), a frequent critic of Republican presidential nominee Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpCNN's Anderson Cooper: Trump's Bubba Wallace tweet was 'racist, just plain and simple' Beats by Dre announces deal with Bubba Wallace, defends him after Trump remarks Overnight Defense: DOD reportedly eyeing Confederate flag ban | House military spending bill blocks wall funding MORE, is getting an early GOP primary challenger ahead of his 2018 reelection bid.  

Former state Sen. Kelli Ward announced on her weekly radio show Thursday that she would challenge the Arizona senator, saying she is "going to take on the establishment once again." 
 
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"We are going to need people ... who are willing to stand up for the people they represent. Who are fighting for small government, for freedom, for liberty. That aren't there to reward cronies," said Ward, who was defeated by Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCain Senate outlook slides for GOP Juan Williams: Time for boldness from Biden Democrats lead in three battleground Senate races: poll MORE (R-Ariz.) in a primary this year.  
 
Ward, an unabashed supporter of Trump, added that listeners should send her potential nicknames for Flake over Twitter, noting she liked "Flake the Snake."
 
She noted that she's starting early because "regardless of the outcome of the presidential election, we are going to need people in Washington, D.C., who are willing to fight the establishment." 
 
Ward was defeated handily by McCain, losing by roughly 12 percentage points in a late August primary. She argued during the Wednesday show that Flake would be easier to pick off in a midterm election. 
 
"Sen. Flake might be semi-well liked, but he doesn't have the longevity of John McCain. He doesn't have the reach of John McCain. He doesn't have the war hero status of John McCain," she said. 
 
Flake said Thursday he expected a challenger, adding "we'll be prepared." 
 
"Shots at a seat in the Senate don't come along very often, so we fully expect capable challengers next cycle, both in the primary and the general," he said in a statement. 

An Arizona Republic/Morrison/Cronkite News poll released in mid-September showed Flake as viewed favorably by nearly 35 percent of Arizona voters but viewed unfavorably by nearly 36 percent. 

Flake has spent months criticizing Trump and refused to support his party's nominee, warning that Trump's controversial policies and comments could undercut the Republican Party for years, even if he loses the presidential election next month.
 
Flake joined the Senate in 2013 after spending roughly 12 years in the House. Flake is one of eight GOP senators up for reelection in 2018.
 
Ward had more than $57,500 left in the bank at the end of September, according to the Federal Election Commission. Flake — who did not have to spend money on an election this year — had more than $594,200. 

- Updated at 4:42 p.m.