Kelli Ward pursues Rand Paul’s endorsement in Arizona

Kelli Ward pursues Rand Paul’s endorsement in Arizona
© Greg Nash

Republican Senate hopeful Kelli Ward (R-Ariz.) has spoken with Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulHouse chairwoman diagnosed with 'presumed' coronavirus infection Capitol officials extend suspension of tourist access until May Second Capitol Police officer tests positive for coronavirus MORE (R-Ky.) about her candidacy and asked for his endorsement in a phone call this week.

Paul is considering an endorsement, although no decision has been made.

If Paul were to back Ward, it would put him in the middle of one of the most closely watched races in what is shaping up to be a nasty GOP primary season.

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Sen. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeMcSally campaign to suspend TV ads, canvassing amid pandemic Coronavirus isn't the only reason Congress should spend less time in DC Trump Jr. says he inherited 'Tourette's of the thumbs' from his father MORE (R-Ariz.) stunned Washington this week when he announced on the Senate floor that he would not seek a second term. Flake, who has been fiercely critical of President Trump, would have faced a tough path to reelection.

Trump has tweeted that he is happy Ward is running for Senate, but has not officially backed her. Ward has the support of many of Trump’s allies, including conservative mega-donor Robert Mercer and the outside group Great America Alliance, which has close ties to Breitbart News chairman Stephen Bannon.

Bannon has declared "war" on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Campaign Report: Trump, Biden spar over coronavirus response Senator Tom Coburn's government oversight legacy Schumer praises choice of Defense inspector general to oversee corporate lending fund MORE (R-Ky.) and is vowing to take on nearly every Republican up for reelection in 2018.

McConnell and his allies will not go quietly and are busy recruiting a new challenger for Ward. The Senate Leadership Fund, an outside group with ties to McConnell that spends heavily to protect GOP incumbents, has vowed that Ward will not be the next senator from Arizona.

Paul could be a huge asset for Ward and would be her highest-profile backer in Washington, if he endorses.

The Kentucky Republican similarly faced opposition from McConnell and his allies when he first sought office in 2010.

Now, the Ward campaign sees a potential ally.

Ward was an early supporter of Paul’s presidential campaign and introduced him at several rallies. A Ward campaign adviser, Eric Beach, who also has ties to Great America Alliance, was a national finance co-chairman for Paul’s presidential campaign.

“We think we’re well in line with Rand Paul’s way of thinking, their candidacies are very much the same,” Beach told The Hill. “Senate leadership pushed against Rand Paul’s 2010 election and they’re doing the same thing against Kelli Ward. The great irony is Rand Paul has been one of the most effective U.S. senators and we expect Kelli Ward will be the same.”

A broad field of potential candidates are considering jumping into the race, including Reps. David SchweikertDavid SchweikertHispanic Caucus campaign arm unveils non-Hispanic endorsements Carper staffer tests positive in Delaware The Hill's Morning Report - Biden commits to female VP; CDC says no events of 50+ people for 8 weeks MORE and Martha McSally.

State attorney general Mark Brnovich and businesswoman Christine Jones are also considering getting into the race.

Former Rep. Matt SalmonMatthew (Matt) James SalmonArizona voters like Kyl but few think he'll stick around Former Sen. Jon Kyl to replace McCain in Senate Arizona governor faces pressure over McCain replacement MORE previously ruled it out, but the fiscally conservative group Club for Growth is pressuring him to reconsider.

Arizona treasurer Jeff DeWit and former Arizona GOP chairman Robert Graham, both of whom worked on the Trump campaign, are also mulling bids.